James 2:1–10 NRSV – My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? 2:2 For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, 2:3 and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” 2:4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 2:5 Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? 2:6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? 2:7 Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? 2:8 You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 2:9 But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.
Summary – Authentic faith produces obedience to God’s Word. We are to be doers of the Word. In this passage we are shown another angle of genuine religion, namely, love of neighbor. What happens when the “neighbor” that you have an opportunity to love is unlovely? James rebukes his hearers by applying this commandment in terms of partiality. He teaches that access to the means of grace do not come by face, place, or race, but only by grace.
Insight – Do you make snap judgments about people because of how they look? Our faith must be impartial toward appearance (v 1-2). We must not judge by mere appearance, despising one for a “certain look” and rolling out the red carpet for another. Jesus taught the righteous standard for judgment in John 7:24-25, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” Our faith must be impartial toward poverty (v 3-7). We must not favor the rich, but treat all people with dignity and respect. Partiality toward the rich manifests a covetous heart (v 4). Do you despise those not in your social class, whether higher or lower? Our faith must be impartial toward all persons. We must guard against prideful partiality by remembering the grace into which we stand. The rancor of a judgmental and critically-spirited Christian is bitter to the taste of those who need to hear the message of an incarnate Savior who said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Do you have a critical spirit or a gracious spirit, accepting others not like yourself?
Catechism – What does God require of us? God demands that we love others whether they are poorer or richer than we are.
Discussion – What are some ways we can show love for unlovely people?
Prayer – Father, we thank you for loving us though we are truly unlovely in so many ways. Grant to us to the grace to obey your word so that we show no favor to people based on their appearance or how rich they are; in Christ’s name we ask it. Amen.