Continuing from yesterday in James. In chapter 2, he warns of the the sin of partiality.
He instructs in v1 to take care to avoid even the attitude of favoritism, then gives an example of such.
For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?
Making distinctions based on a person’s financial standing is a “no-no”. And he continues to explain why:
Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?
God has a special place in His heart and in His kingdom for those who are poor in this world. Ever do a study on the comparison of the rich and the poor? It’s fascinating, God’s word is full of consolations to the poor, as well as warnings and woes to the rich. Do a concordance search sometime, it’s a study in itself. But, I’m still in James, and he continues…
If, however, you are fulfilling 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.
Even if I am held in high esteem among my peers and church family, even if I can put on a good front, and appear to be loving, according to God’s word, I am a transgressor of the law if I show partiality, and he goes on to say in verse 13:
judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.
I love how this chapter segues from warnings of partiality, to being convicted by the law as transgressors, straight to the heart of the matter, putting legs on our faith and proving we believe what we say by what we do.
But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
I don’t know why, but when I read this portion, the song ♪ ♫ Love and marriage, love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage ♫ ♪ runs through my mind. You might be able to have good works without faith, but it’s impossible to have faith without the proof of works…it’s just words. Faith is made perfect with the works…and just in case you don’t agree, he gives two Old Testament examples.
You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?
Abraham and Rahab both showed they believed God by what they did. They didn’t stop at the profession, they worked it out. We could add other examples from Holy Scripture; How about Noah? He believed God for as long as it took him to build that ark, and he didn’t just give it lip service, he LIVED what he said he believed, and WORKED in obedience to what he had been told. What about Moses? 40 years of working out what he believed. What would their “faith” look like if they had said “of course I believe God, I made the profession, don’t judge me”. Their “faith” would have died with them. Because they walked it out, we have an example to follow, and their faith lives on.
For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.