Letter of James 4

The body of the Letter James 2,1-5,12

Begin by praying and reading through the specific passage as many times as you deem fit before answering the questions. You may find it helpful to write down your answers to the questions and any other thoughts you may have. Putting things on the paper will help you think through the issues, pin the most relevant thoughts in your mind and reflect on how they specifically apply to your own situation. It will also be of help when you look back to bring back all that God has been teaching you.

James 2 Amplified Bible (AMP)

Against partiality (2:1–13)
2 My fellow believers, do not practice your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of partiality [toward people—show no favoritism, no prejudice, no snobbery]. 2 For if a man comes into your meeting place wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in dirty clothes also comes in, 3 and you pay special attention to the one who wears the fine clothes, and say to him, “You sit here in this good seat,” and you tell the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down [on the floor] by my footstool,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves, and become judges with wrong motives? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters: has not God chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and [as believers to be] heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you [in contrast] have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress and exploit you, and personally drag you into the courts of law? 7 Do they not blaspheme the precious name [of Christ] by which you are called?
8 If, however, you are [really] fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself [that is, if you have an unselfish concern for others and do things for their benefit]” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality [prejudice, favoritism], you are committing sin and are convicted by the Law as offenders. 10 For whoever keeps the whole Law but stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of [breaking] all of it. 11 For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you murder, you have become guilty of transgressing the [entire] Law. 12 Speak and act [consistently] as people who are going to be judged by the law of liberty [that moral law that frees obedient Christians from the bondage of sin]. 13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; but [to the one who has shown mercy] mercy triumphs [victoriously] over judgment.

Against a barren faith (2:14–26)

14 What is the benefit, my fellow believers, if someone claims to have faith but has no [good] works [as evidence]? Can that [kind of] faith save him? [No, a mere claim of faith is not sufficient—genuine faith produces good works.] 15 If a brother or sister is without [adequate] clothing and lacks [enough] food for each day, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace [with my blessing], [keep] warm and feed yourselves,” but he does
not give them the necessities for the body, what good does that do? 17 So too, faith, if it does not have works [to back it up], is by itself dead [inoperative and ineffective].
18 But someone may say, “You [claim to] have faith and I have [good] works; show me your [alleged] faith without the works [if you can], and I will show you my faith by my works [that is, by what I do].” 19 You believe that God is one; you do well [to believe that]. The demons also believe [that], and shudder and bristle [in awe-filled terror—they have seen His wrath]! 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish [spiritually shallow] person, that faith without [good] works is useless? 21 Was our father Abraham not [shown to be] justified by works [of obedience which expressed his faith] when he offered Isaac his son on the altar [as a sacrifice to God]? 22 You see that [his] faith was working together with his works, and as a result of the works, his faith was completed [reaching its maturity when he expressed his faith through obedience]. 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and this [faith] was credited to him [by God] as righteousness and as conformity to His will,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man (believer) is justified by works and not by faith alone [that is, by acts of obedience a born-again believer reveals his faith]. 25 In the same way, was Rahab the prostitute not justified by works too, when she received the [Hebrew] spies as guests and protected them, and sent them away [to escape] by a different route? 26 For just as the [human] body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works [of obedience] is also dead.

With the second chapter we begin to study the main body of the letter of James. The body of the letter is made up of a series of coherent small teaching units with transitional sections intended to knit those sections together. Most of these teaching units begin with an exhortation: 2, 1 and 12; 3, 1; 4, 11 and 13; 5, 1. On other occasions, the least, James begins the didactic unit with a rhetorical question: 2, 14; 3, 13; 4, 1. The second chapter of the Epistle of James focuses on two eminently ethical and practical issues. The first (2:1-13) answers the question: What should be the believer's attitude towards other people? The biblical answer is that the practice of living faith produces fairness as a result.

Opening Unit

James 2, 1–13: Against partiality
The didactic unit with which the body of the letter begins is an unmitigated condemnation of partiality within the community. To this end, James again turns to the theme of the rich and the poor, although now it is the Christian attitude toward them that is emphasized. God has chosen the poor to be rich in faith, while often the rich are the oppressors. The law of love is in any case opposed to partiality, and those who do not fulfill this law fail to respect the whole law.
James offers us four fundamental reasons why the believer should practice impartiality: (1) it is consistent with living, dynamic faith, (2) it harmonizes with God's elective purposes, (3) it is consistent with the specific command of Scripture, and (4) it relates to the coming judgment.

In summary, James 2:8-11 teaches that the practice of fairness is consistent with divine revelation in both the Old and New Testaments. Love of neighbor is a specific commandment of the law, but the law is not a conglomerate of precepts that have no relation to one another. On the contrary, the law is a unity. It is the revelation of ethical principles that reflect the very character of God. Therefore, to violate a commandment is to violate the law. Following the pattern set by the Lord in the Sermon on the Mount, James gives the law a broader meaning than that given by the Pharisees. The attitude of the heart is as important as the performance of the act. The answer to the practice of favoritism and discrimination of any kind is found in displaying the fruit of the Spirit through a living faith based on the principles of biblical ethics.

1. Can you think of any examples of modern favoritism within the church? If so, why do you think this kind of discrimination happens? What can you personally do to avoid these cases of favoritism?
2. Why, in your view, is favoritism incompatible with true Christian faith?
3. Where is the balance between proper respect for those in authority and inappropriate favoritism towards them?
4. How important to you is James' statement that God's law is an organic whole that cannot be broken down into parts and that breaking one part of it is the same as breaking it all? How does that statement make you feel, do you agree with it?
5. What does James mean when he talks about “showing mercy”? In what situations do we see this quality at work in our lives and Christian community?

To what extent should our accountability towards God motivate us to live lives that are more pleasing to him? List some specific examples for each area below:
   ▪ In your home,
  ▪ In your church,
   ▪ In your community.

For further prayer and reflection
Think of examples from the Gospels when Jesus refused to show favoritism. Reflect on the significance of these Gospel stories – what they say about Jesus, what they say about the individuals for whom he cared, and what they say about how we should act in our society.

Ask God to show you how discrimination has touched your relationships. Ask Him to reveal to you where you have sought to glorify yourself by glorifying others. Ask Him to reveal to you where you have sought to elevate yourself by devaluing others. Close in prayer. Praise God for His son, Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory. Thank Him that mercy has triumphed over judgment in His dealings with you. Ask Him to help you demonstrate mercy as it has been shown to you.

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