James 2:1-13 ESV
2 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? 8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
It seems like there has always been a struggle to stay consistent with spending real quality time with God in the form of daily personal devotions. Oh, there is always an ongoing preparation for the next sermon or Bible study, but there is a real struggle balancing a busy life with this need to have one-on-one time with God. We’re talking about bringing all that busyness to a halt, and spending quality time with God. A time just for me and God. A time just for you and God.
Recently, a commitment was made to stop allowing the hectic circumstances of life to prevent this time of personal growth. It seems as though God has blessed, and even rewarded this effort. You see, everyday this time spent in the presence of God seems to become richer and richer.
Honestly, I never cared much for the terms, “personal devotions” or “quiet time,” so for me, this time is called, “Coffee with God.” This name as been applied to our North Valley Church Blog as well. Every morning begins with a commitment to engage in a real time of personal devotions while enjoying a cup of coffee, or two.
There was a slight interruption this morning, during Coffee with God, as my wife made some delicious breakfast and served me just after the passage in James chapter two was read. The first thought was, “I haven’t finished Coffee with God yet.” Well, the breakfast looked, and smelled delicious, so this morning we enjoyed, “Breakfast with God.”
My thoughts went back to the passage, coupled with what had just transpired in our busy home. Let me explain. I don’t deserve a person who prepares a delicious meal fit for a king, and serves it to me like I was, in fact, a king, but my wife did it anyway.
Somehow, this act of servitude related to the writings of James. If we back up to James 1:9 for a moment, he wrote, “9Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation…” Last week, during Coffee with God, James seemed to be reminding us, who live in humble circumstances, to boast, or rejoice in our new position. That position is wrapped up in the idea that the believer has been adopted into God’s family. We are now a member of a royal family. We don’t deserve such an honor, but God’s mercy, grace, and love has bestowed this honor upon us.
Well, today’s Breakfast with God came back around to this idea with the shoe on the other foot, so to speak. Today, James said, “1 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory–James 2:1.”
Combining both passages from chapters one and two, it was as if God was saying, “Don’t think poorly of yourself, because you have a new exalted position, and, by the way, don’t think poorly of those who live within even more humble circumstances than you, because they have also been exalted into this same royal family.”
Those words struck hard. We do live in a society that tends to show favoritism, don’t we? Society dotes over the rich and famous, like giddy little school children. In contrast, the people living in humble circumstances, are often shunned.
James says in verse five of our chosen text, “5Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him–James 2:5”
James goes on to say, if we really fulfill the entire law of God, then we will love our neighbor as ourselves. Oh yeah, remember that reference? The two greatest commandments showing up again. Those greatest commandments being, love God and love others. Often, we struggle with the second half – loving others. The problem herein lies, if we break one law, we, in turn, break the entire law.
James qualifies his thoughts about failing to keep the whole law by writing, “10For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.”
This reminds us of the the lawyer who asked Jesus a question about eternal life. The lawyer was really just wanting to put Jesus to the test in hopes of tricking Him into saying something that would give the religious leaders ammunition to use against Him. Ultimately, the answer was exactly what we have been talking about. In short, love God and love your neighbor as yourself.
The lawyer knew his own heart, and wanted to justify his own actions, so he asked, “Yeah, that sounds great, but who is my neighbor?” (the Harvey-paraphrased edition). Jesus then shares that famous parable about the Good Samaritan.
We all know this story of the Samaritan. The short moral lesson is simply that a person went above and beyond the call of duty when he helped another in tremendous form. Specifically, Jesus’ story involved a Samaritan as the one providing the much needed help to a Jew. This is even more significant, because there was a long history of hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans. Jesus said we should love others, even the unloveable–Luke 10:25-37.
There is a similar point made when Jesus encountered the person we call the rich young ruler. Remember, this man ran up to Jesus, also with a question about eternal life. Jesus pointed the man to the law in response to his question. Jesus was specifically drawing attention to the laws dealing with man’s relationship to his fellow man (including murder, adultery, theft, lying, and honoring one’s parents).
The man claimed he had kept all those laws, but Jesus saw this man’s heart. Jesus saw his deepest and most inner desires. Jesus knew this man loved his many possessions more than people, and ultimately, more than God. Jesus told the man to sell off his possessions, give to the poor, and become a Christ follower. You know the story, this man walked away feeling very sad, because he had great possessions and wealth.
In both of these encounters, Jesus was dealing with people who looked into God’s perfect law, and came up short. They claimed to love God, but they, so obviously, didn’t love others. James lets us know if we break one law, we’re guilty of violating the whole law.
Evangelist, author, and speaker, Ray Comfort, routinely compares the law to a chain. Comfort often asks, “If you break one link in a chain, haven’t you broken the whole chain?” If you break one law in God’s commandments, haven’t you broken the law? The answer is, “Yes!” As a matter of fact, we are all guilty. This makes us spiritually poor. In fact, we deserve to be shunned by God.
This morning’s Bible passage, combined with my wife’s humble attempts to serve me breakfast, reminded me that I was spiritually poor, until I realized there was salvation to be found. That salvation came at great cost through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Now I am a part of, not just the royal family, but the holy family of God.
I should not only boast and rejoice in that fact with regards to myself, but I should also boast and rejoice in that fact with regards to others. Just like the Prodigal Son was treated like a king when he returned home, so should our treatment of others be, even if those others are not in my particular social class or status. The lesson can, and should be extended to everyone who might be different, in any way, from ourselves.