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I. (:1) THESIS

“My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.”

Look at other Scriptures: Lev. 19:15; Mal. 2:9; Luke 20:21; Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; Ephes 6:9; Col. 3:25

A. Addressed to Professing Believers

“My brethren”

Ross: He begins his exhortation by using once again his favorite form of address… and it is very appropriate here, as he is about to deal with a glaring example of the lack of Christian love and brotherhood.”

B. Issue = Genuineness of Faith and Conduct Consistent with that Faith

C. Proper View of Christ Leads to a Proper View of Others

Once we truly see how “glorious” Christ is, there will be no room for distinctions on the human plane because we all pale in comparison to the glory of Christ. Look at how our Lord (in all of His Majesty) treated others and we will see that there is no room for “personal favoritism” on our part. Surely the disciples are not above the Master when it comes to showing compassion to all men without distinction.

Atkins: “Partiality is treating a person better or worse than he deserves for selfish reasons.”


A. Favoritism towards the Rich Man in your assembly

B. Prejudice towards the Poor Man in your assembly

– We tend to judge people on the basis of external appearance and stereotype groupings

– We are impressed by riches and professional success and social standing

Mitton: “Apparently there was a shortage of seats, and some of the congregation had to stand or sit on the floor, so that to have a seat at all was a privilege.”


“have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?”


A. (:5-7) Our Thinking is Upside Down

1. Look at Election — God more often has chosen the poor

a. Pay Special Attention

“Listen, my beloved brethren”

b. Look at God’s Choice — 1 Cor. 1:26

“did not God choose the poor of this world”

1) “to be rich in faith”

2) “and heirs of the kingdom”

Barclay (quoting Abraham Lincoln): “God must love the common people because He made so many of them.”

c. Consistent with God’s Promise

“which He promised”

d. Key = a person’s relationship to God (not their social or economic status) — “to those who love Him”

2. Look at Your Own Failure

“But you have dishonored the poor man.”

3. Look at Personal Experience — The Rich more often mistreat and persecute you

a. The Rich Mistreat You and Show No Mercy

1) “oppress you”

2) “personally drag you into court”

Barclay: “in the society which James inhabited the rich oppressed the poor. They dragged them to the law courts. No doubt this was for debt. At the bottom end of the social scale men were so poor that they could hardly live, and moneylenders were plentiful and extortionate. In the ancient world there was a custom of summary arrest. If a creditor met a debtor on the street, he could seize him by the neck of his robe, nearly throttling him and literally drag him to the law courts. That is what the rich did to the poor. They had no sympathy; all they wanted was the uttermost farthing. It is not riches that James is condemning. It is the conduct of riches without sympathy.”

b. The Rich Persecute You and Blaspheme God

“Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called”

B. (:8-11) Our Evaluation of the Seriousness of this Conduct is Warped

1. (:8) At Stake is Obedience to the Law

“If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well.”

a. This is a good law — “royal law”

Wiersbe: “Why is ‘love thy neighbor’ called the royal law?

– For one thing, it was given by the King. …

– for a second reason: it rules all the other laws. “Love is the fulfilling of the law (Rom. 13:10). There would be no need for the thousands of complex laws if each citizen truly loved his neighbors.

– But the main reason why this is the royal law is that obeying it makes you a king.

Hatred makes a person a slave, but love sets us free from selfishness and enables us to reign like kings.”

Mitton: “that which describes the mode of life expected of those who have entered into the Kingdom of God (Matt. 5:20; 7:21, Mark 9:47, etc.).”

b. This is consistent with the Old Testament Scriptures

2. (:9) Showing Partiality = Breaking the Law

a. “you are committing sin”

No way to sugarcoat the offense

b. “you are convicted by the law as transgressors”

No way to escape the penalty

3. (:10-11) The Law is a Cohesive Unity

a. Any Infraction (whether perceived as small or great in your mind)

Renders one Totally Guilty Before God

“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all”

Mitton: “The extent of guilt may vary, but the reality of it is the same.”

Barclay: “The Jew was very apt to regard the law as a series of detached injunctions. To keep one of these injunctions was to gain credit; to break one was to incur debt. Therefore, a man could add up the ones he kept and subtract the ones he broke, and, as it were emerge with a credit or a debit balance.”

b. Each Command was Issued by the Same God

“For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not commit murder.'”

c. Breaking Any Part of the Law Makes You a Transgressor of the Law

“Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.”


A. (:12) We Will All Be Judged by the Same Standard

“So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.”

Mitton: “This is the law which operates, not by outward enforcement, but when the love of Christ inwardly constrains. It is part of the freedom of the children of God, which issues in glad and spontaneous obedience to Him, for the sake of pleasing Him who has done so much for them, and in the glad assurance that what He commands is life’s surest guide to deep and lasting happiness.”

Ross: “We shall be judged… not so much by the observance or neglect of this or that external rule as by the degree in which our heart and life have been dominated by the spirit of love.”

Vaughan: “Those who make a habit of judging others are inclined to forget that they themselves face a day when God will judge them.”

B. (:13A) What Goes Around Comes Around

“For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy.”

Vaughan: “We should be very careful in interpreting this statement. James surely does not mean that by showing mercy to man we procure mercy from God. That would make salvation a matter of human merit and would contradict the whole tenor of Scripture. What James means is that by failing to show compassion on our fellow men we prove ourselves to be utterly destitute of Christian character. Christian people are the children of God. They bear his image; they copy His example. It is therefore impossible for them to fail to share in his compassion, to fail to reflect His spirit of mercy. If one does not show mercy, he thereby shows that he has no vital connection with God.”

C. (:13B) “Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment”

Mitton: “It may, however, well be that though James has felt it necessary to stress the reality of God’s judgment, yet he feels compelled to conclude with a glad acknowledgement that in the end it is God’s mercy which has the last word: It triumphs over judgment.”