World English Bible translation
2:1My brothers, don't hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ of glory with partiality. 2:2 For if a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, comes into your assembly, and a poor man in filthy clothing also comes in; 2:3 and you pay special attention to him who wears the fine clothing, and say, "Sit here in a good place;" and you tell the poor man, "Stand there," or "Sit by my footstool;" 2:4 haven't you shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 2:5 Listen, my beloved brothers. Didn't God choose those who are poor in this world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to those who love him? 2:6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Don't the rich oppress you, and personally drag you before the courts? 2:7 Don't they blaspheme the honorable name by which you are called? 2:8 However, if you fulfill the royal law, according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well. 2:9 But if you show partiality, you commit sin, being convicted by the law as transgressors.
A man's sin comes out of the evil that is in his heart. But, through Christ, God gives us a new heart. The life of Christ is planted in us, like a seed. God nurtures that seed, and Christ is born anew within us. So it is that pure religion that is undefiled before God is to live the life of Christ. We begin by caring for the powerless, the widow and the orphan. As well, keep our hearts unstained by the sin of the world.
What is the next step to hold our religion and our lives pure before God? James tells his readers here that it is to treat all of our brothers in Christ equally, without regard to their station in life. The rich and the poor all sit equally at the Lord's table. Christ came to die for all men, for all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory.
But, human nature would have us to treat some people better than others. James uses an example to which most people can relate. If a rich man comes into a religious assembly, there are those who would readily cater to his needs. He would be given a seat of honor and his comments solicited. Now if a poor man were to come to the same gathering, would he be given such a welcome? Under normal human conditions, he might be given a lesser place, perhaps even made to feel unwelcome entirely. It is not unknown, even today, for certain types of people to be excluded for some assemblies altogether.
Jesus our Lord gave up everything to take upon Himself the form of a servant. He could have chosen to be born into privilege and wealth. Instead, he was born into the household of a carpenter in a remote backwater of the world. The home of Joseph of Nazareth would not have been the poorest in the little village, but by today's standards it would have been a life of abject poverty. Jesus began his ministry neither with the religious scholars of his day nor with the powerful elite; He began with twelve Galileans, most of them fishermen. Our Lord did not show partiality and favoritism to men, neither will those who live the life He has given to them.
We have a king and our king has given us a royal law. "You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul and mind: and you shall love your neighbor as yourself." One cannot fulfill this law while playing favorites and showing partiality. Our neighbors are both rich and poor. If we fulfill this law of our king, we do well. If, however, we show partiality, we commit sin and are convicted by the law as sinners.
The life of Christ has been planted in all that have faith. It is a life that expresses its love for all people. It is a life that stretches out first to the helpless and the hopeless. Christ's love extends through us to touch the world, to continue to shape it toward God's ends. Christ lives in us and His love flows through us into the world. We are the conduit; His love is the current that passes through us, sweeping us along. We must allow ourselves to be swept along into His grand purpose for the world. We are the flotsam of His stream, the driftwood that He tosses up along the shore.
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