Summary: Part for in the study of James - James 2:1-13
The Book of James Study (Part IV)
Many consider this second chapter of James to be the heart of his message. Because here he gives a description of the character of faith. He shows us that the expression of his kind of faith is that which pleases God in our lives.
The Christian has two relationships—a vertical one with God and a horizontal one with Man. Neither of these can be ignored nor practiced without the other. Jesus stated the two in commenting on the first and second greatest commandments—The first is to love the Lord God with all our being and the second is like unto it, “love thy neighbor as thy self.” A mature Christian seeks to treat all persons with respect, and, particularly, “to love the brethren,” as John says in 1 John. Sometimes we respond to those around us based on unworthy criteria, such as age, gender, socio-economic status, education, money, power, and race. Prejudice and partiality or unbecoming a Christian and forbidden by the Scriptures. James contrasts the treatment of two individuals in a church assembly—a rich man and a poor man.
I. Let’s Examine the Precept that James Sets Forth (2:1)
a. Probably the most common sin among believers is the sin James spells out in this passage – showing favoritism.
i. James is saying in effect “Do not hold to the Christian faith which sees every believer as saved by grace through faith, not of works – and at the same time practice discrimination between different classes of people in the fellowship
b. James is saying let there be an agreement between what you profess has taken place on the inside and what you express on the outside.
i. James is simply reiterating the general them of his epistle “Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only”
II. James Provides an Illustration of this Precept (vv. 2-4)
a. James paints the picture of two men coming into the church
i. One is a rich man finely and elaborately dressed, and the other is a poor man, dressed in rags
ii. Then James shows, hypothetically, how we might treat these two worshippers in the church assembly.
iii. From the description of the men given, it is unlikely that either was a believer
1. Yet when they arrived, the richly dressed man was shown great respect, not because of his true worth, but because of his outward appearance of wealth and position
2. In contrast, the poor was treated harshly, with no warmth or compassion.
iv. Paul referred to the problem in his letter to the Romans, using the words “respect of persons,” reminding them that “there is no respect of persons with God” (Ro. 2:11).
God is not impressed with skin color, degrees on the wall, large bank accounts, etc. and neither should we. He treated Nicodemus and the Samaritan Woman the same. He paid respect to the woman with the issue of blood as with Jarius, the ruler of the synagogue. He received Blind Bartimaeus like He received the rich young ruler. The “Lord of Glory,” who condescended to come to the earth was not condescending with those He met and ministered to. Whether the persons in His ministry had power and prestige or were poor and unlearned, He looked on each of them with compassion. He looked beyond their faults and saw their needs.
A Sample of the Problem (vv. 2-3)—“For if there come into your assembly”
The prosperous man—“ a man with a gold ring”
- “Gold ring” is translated from the Greek word chrusodaktulios, literally “a gold-ringed” person.
There is nothing wrong with wearing gold rings, but the man let it be known by his actions that he wore a gold ring.
- He, also, had on “goodly” apparel, a translation of the word lampros, meaning “bright, shining.” It was used to describe the gorgeous robe thrown over Jesus shoulders by Herod’s soldiers. Cornelius used the word to describe the resplendent clothing which adorned the holy angel which visited him.
Talk about “dressing for success,” the man mentioned by James looked the part.
The poor man—“a poor man in vile raiment” (KJV)
- This man is presented as destitute, as Lazarus, the beggar, who sat at the gate of the rich man, who sought only the crumbs from the rich man’s table..
- “Vile raiment” (KJV) suggests that the man wore shabby/dirty clothing and was down on his luck.
The prejudiced man—“ye have respect to him”
- The usher looks at the appearance of both men and directs each to a place according to his own bias
The rich man was invited to sit in “a good place” while the poor man was treated abruptly and guided to sit in an undesirable place, to stand or to sit at the feet of the usher.