My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing fine clothes, and you say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool," have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called? If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not commit murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.One thing that's always bothered me about the first part of this passage continues to do so. James says not to favor the rich over the poor, and I'm right with that, so far. But then he provides what seems to me an odd reason for that excellent advice: because the rich mistreat you. Are we supposed to be impartial because we have reason to dislike our mistreaters? That seems to me to be rather a worldly way to reason. I'll wait for my thinking to be corrected, as it no doubt will be, ultimately.
Later in the passage, James gets at the same idea that Paul does in his letter to the Galatians: that trust in our obedience to the law of Moses is the ultimate all-or-nothing, high-stakes, terrifying business. To transgress one law, any law, is to transgress them all. Perfection is required. If you can't meet that standard, better observe the law of liberty, and to specialize in showing mercy and forbearance. "Forgive us our trespasses," says Jesus, "as we forgive those who trespass against us." Amen and amen.
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