Final thoughts on James 1:1-13
My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen 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. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,”you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,”also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. NKJV
James begins chapter 2 by dealing with the issue of personal favoritism. The Lord exhorts us not show partiality—not to be a respecter of persons (KJV). To be a respecter of persons is to exalt or favor someone on a superficial and external basis such as physical appearance, wealth, race, rank, or social status. To show partiality or be a respecter of persons is a clear violation of the will of God as revealed in the scriptures (Prov. 24:23, 28:21; Deut. 10:17; II Chron. 19:7; Job 34:19; Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11, 6:8-9; Col. 3:25; I Pet. 1:17). In verse 5, we have an example of God not being a respecter of persons. God has primarily chosen to save those who are less esteemed in the world’s eyes (I Cor. 1:26-28).
In our text, the Lord gives us a concrete example of being a respecter of persons in giving the best seats in the church to the wealthy (vs. 2-3). Such partiality makes us judges with evil thoughts (v. 4). There are two ways that this can apply to us. First, we can equate superficial, external things with spirituality and God’s approval. The church of Laodicea was guilty of this very thing (Rev. 3:17). Or we can cater to the wealthy, the educated, or those of high social standing or influence because of the perception that they can bring greater benefit to the church.
In verses 6-7, we see that some of the Christians were showing partiality toward the rich, and the Lord reminds them that it is the rich who oppresses them. Judgment based on superficial, external things if faulty, erroneous, and twisted judgment, and is actually a violation of the royal law (love your neighbor as yourself) and therefore sin. Unlike the unsaved, who are in bondage to sin (Eph. 2:1-3), Christ has freed us from the power of sin (V.12, Rom. 6:6-7, Jn. 8:36) enabling us to obey God. As Christians, we do not have to sin. We sin because we choose to sin and whenever we judge with partiality we are acting like the unsaved who are enslaved by sin.
Whenever we judge others, we need to remember that we will be judged by the same standards with which we judge others (v. 13). If we are critical and harsh in judging others, then the Lord will be harsh in judging us (Matt. 18:23-35). And even though as Christians we will never be condemned (Jn. 3:16-18, 5:24), we will still stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account for the things we have done in this life (II Cor. 5:10, Rom. 14:10-12).
So what do we learn from our text? First, we need to make sure that we have truly repented of our sins and trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. Secondly, if we have been saved, then we need to live like one who has been freed from the power of sin. We need to be sure that we are not being a respecter of persons and not being critical and harsh in judging others.