Focal Passage- James 2:14-26
James 2:14 “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?”
James’ concern throughout his letter so far is that some who claim to be Christians aren’t actually Christians. Notice in this verse that he addresses the issue of those who “claim” to have faith, not those who have it. James’ concern, as should be ours, is for those who may have said the words or went to synagogue, or in more contemporary circumstances, those who signed a membership card or repeated a prayer but whose lives in no way exemplify a changed heart. He is concerned because he heard his brother and Savior say that many will say to Him on that day when He returns, “Lord, Lord,” but that He would not know them. (Matthew 7:21-23) What is the telling factor between those who really know Jesus as Lord and those who only claim to know Him? It is good works that come from that changed heart.
Study/Meditation: What does a changed heart look like from the outside? Since we only really know our own hearts, how can you be certain that yours has changed with your profession of faith?
*Father, I profess to You and to the world that I believe in Jesus Christ as Your Son and in Him as my only Savior. Thank You for changing my heart from the inside; help me to show that changed heart to a dying world. Amen.
Focal Passage- James 2:1-13
James 2:13 “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
The only way any of us is able to stand before the Throne of Judgment without condemnation is because of Christ’s mercy. The only way we receive the undeserved love of God is because of mercy. Without mercy we are lost for all eternity, but because of it we have received eternal life. If everything we have and can live in hope of is because of mercy, shouldn’t mercy be the overflowing of our hearts toward others? Shouldn’t our default in terms of dealing with others be mercy since we have been offered and given so much of it? James is reminding us that a heart that has received the mercy we have should be full of that same mercy; it should be an indication that we have experienced God’s mercy in how we treat other people. Let that be a sober reminder to each of us this day: Mercy will flow from those who have received mercy.
Study/Meditation: What part does forgiveness play in this relationship between mercy and judgment?
*Father, thank You for giving me Your undeserved mercy. Thank You for sending Your Son to give Himself completely so that I might live. Forgive me for the times I don’t offer even a fraction of this mercy to others and remind me to do so. Amen.
Focal Passage- James 2:1-13
James 2:12 “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.”
It’s a somewhat interesting concept to speak of something as a “law” of “liberty,” as the very meaning of the word “law” connotes restriction. However, James accurately portrays God’s Holy Law as one of “liberty,” or “freedom.” Only in Christ are we truly free, and His Law is freely given to any who would seek it. As James begins to summarize his admonitions on showing partiality, he points us directly back to the things we must do and say, most especially in relation to how we treat others. Do so with love, just as we have been treated so by our Heavenly Father, knowing that He is no respecter of persons and neither should we be. We must love in the sense that He loves, and that is always going to bring the glory and honor and praise back onto Him. Only then may we rest in our judgment according to His Law of freedom.
Study/Meditation: Think about the concept of being “judged” under a “law of liberty.” How might that be confusing to an unbeliever? How should it be encouraging to a believer?
*Father, thank You for offering to us Your law of freedom. Help me as I strive to treat others with the same love and mercy as You have treated me. Forgive me as I fail in this daily and remind me to try again. Thank You for Your patience with me. Amen.
James 2:10-11 “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 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.”
This may seem a bit harsh at first glance. After all, the present justice system would never punish someone or hold them accountable for all laws simply because he or she broke one of them. However, God’s laws are not laws created simply to keep order. God’s laws were given to demonstrate man’s heart condition. Inasmuch as this is true, all of His laws are foundational on the first two: love God with all your heart, mind, and soul and love your neighbor as yourself. All the other laws have their foundation in these two since these two portray the heart. You cannot break any other of God’s laws without breaking one of these first two since breaking any of the others would demonstrate a heart that doesn’t love. James’ point, then, is valid: you cannot choose parts of the Law to follow and parts to ignore. It must be followed in its entirety or you fail to follow any of it. Consequently, this shows why man’s heart is in need of the perfect Savior who did all of this on its behalf.
Study/Meditation: What is the chief difference between man’s law and God’s Law? Why is this such a significant difference?
*Father, thank You for sending a Savior, Your Son, to perfectly keep Your Law and then sacrifice Himself because I could not. This is a love I cannot comprehend and do not deserve but of which I am so very thankful. Amen.
James 2:8-9 “If you really fulfill 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.”
James was writing to people who really cared about the Law. They were very interested in fulfilling it and obeying it. However, like most of us, they had picked out parts of it to follow and left other parts out. Loving one’s neighbor as one’s self is easy when we’re the ones picking out who our neighbors are. However, James is reminding us that our “neighbors” are literally those people with whom we come into contact, not just the people with whom we want to be friends. Loving our neighbors as ourselves means loving others and not showing favoritism to some over others, even when we like some more than others. The Law makes no distinctions and James is pointing out that neither should we.
Study/Meditation: Proverbs 28:21 very simply says, “To show partiality is not good.” Why is this so? What negative impact does showing partiality have on displaying God’s love to others?
*Father, forgive me for showing partiality to some over others. Help me to love with Your love and to give mercy as You give mercy. Amen.
James 2:6-7 “But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?”
There are two things being dealt with in these verses. James is still correcting the behavior of those in the synagogue who were giving preferential treatment to the wealthy over the poor based solely on their standing within the community. He is reminding the recipients of this letter that making value judgments on a person’s place in the Kingdom, especially those value judgments based on money or earthly things, is wrong. God is the only rightful judge and respecter of persons, and He does so because He can see a person’s heart. God is not interested in wealth, so neither should we be. However, James is also dealing with something more figurative. He is not saying that the rich are horrible and should be shunned either, simply because they are wealthy. He is again pointing to what emphasis all of us should place on value, and that is certainly not on earthly things. Those who find their place within the confines of worldly goods are not looking to the only true Source of joy and completeness, and that is our Lord. In so doing, they blaspheme God’s name and His place. James is reminding us of what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.”
Study/Meditation: Why do you think it is so important to be “poor in spirit”? What things in your life might keep you from maintaining this correct perspective?
*Father, please forgive me for the times when I try to find happiness and contentment in this world rather than in You. Help me to always look to You for the joy that only You can give. Amen.