2
About partiality
My brothers, stop holding the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Glory, with partiality!* For if a man with a gold ring, in fine clothes, should enter your synagogue, and a poor man in filthy rags should also enter, and you pay special attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit in this special seat,” but to the poor one you say, “You stand there,” or “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not been separated among yourselves and become judges with malignant thoughts?
Listen, my beloved brothers. Has not God chosen the poor of the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that He has promised to those loving Him? But you dishonored the poor one. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into courts? Do they not blaspheme the noble name that was called upon you? 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, being convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever will keep the whole law, yet stumble in one point, has become guilty of all. 11 Because 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.*
12 Speak and act as being those who are about to be judged by a law of liberty 13 (the judgment will be without mercy to the one not showing mercy). That law exalts mercy over judgment.
Faith and works
14 What is the advantage, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? That faith cannot save him, can it? 15 If a brother or sister is actually naked, and is destitute of the daily food, 16 and someone among you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you (pl) do not give them the things needed for the body, what is the benefit? 17 Thus also that faith, if it does not have works, is dead, being by itself. 18 (But someone will say: “You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith by§ your works* and I, by my works will show you my faith [what he believes].” 19 You believe that God is one. You do well. The demons also believe—and shudder!) 20 But you need to know, you foolish fellow,§ that faith without works is dead!*
Examples
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You can see that faith was acting together with his works, and the faith was made complete by the works. 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “So Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called ‘friend of God’. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. 25 Similarly, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by a different way? 26 For just as the body without spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
* 2:1 James is accusing them of being partial. Can you think of a single local church where a rich person and a beggar receive equal treatment? 2:2 That is what the Text says, “synagogue”. James is addressing Christian Jews, and their culture is very strong. For many generations they have called their meeting places ‘synagogues’, so why stop now? Since the place or building is in view here, to render ‘assembly’ is less clear. 2:4 The verb ‘separate’ is in the passive voice, so some outside force has acted on them. The term ‘malignant’ is generally used of Satan and his works—something malignant is aggressively evil, it contaminates. Obviously their partiality did not come from God. § 2:8 We have access to the “royal law” through the Scriptures. * 2:11 It is more comfortable to regard the commands like beads on a string, but James says they are more like a pane of glass—if you break off a corner, the pane is broken. 2:13 Even though inserted as an aside, this is a very serious bit of information! Since showing mercy is not one of my strong points… 2:13 Perhaps 20% of the Greek manuscripts have ‘mercy’ in the nominative case, making it the subject of the verb (as in most versions), but some 80%, including the best line of transmission, have ‘mercy’ in the accusative case, making it the direct object (which to me makes much better sense). This accords with God's description of Himself in Exodus 34:6-7—He keeps mercy to the 1000th generation, He punishes to the 4th; the proportion is 250:1. § 2:18 Instead of “by”, some 11% of the Greek manuscripts have ‘without’, as in most versions. The following word “your” is omitted by perhaps 8% (as in NIV, NASB, LB, TEV, etc.). * 2:18 He is citing James' position. 2:18 This delightful verse is generally misunderstood to this day. The translations that close the quote after the first ‘works’ do not make sense. The hypothetical objector has disclaimed faith, so for James to say, “Show me your faith”, does not follow. James clearly teaches salvation by faith, a faith that is alive (if you are alive, you do things). But an orthodox Jew believes in salvation by works, so here James (who had once been one) anticipates an objection from that quarter. The salvation-by-works person has a different faith. 2:19 In his retort James cites a central tenet in Judaism. Since the demons believe the same thing, and it does not do them any good, something more or different is needed. § 2:20 Whom is James addressing here? I imagine it is the “someone” in verse 14 above. * 2:20 Instead of “dead”, less than 2% of the Greek manuscripts, of objectively inferior quality, have ‘useless’ (as in NIV, NASB, LB, TEV, etc.). 2:23 See Genesis 15:6. We like to quote Ephesians 2:8-9, but James is saying that we need to give equal time to verse 10. We are not saved by good works, but for good works. We do good works because we are saved, and if we don't, we probably aren't. 2:26 I suppose the opposite is also true: a human spirit without a body is ‘dead’, as also are works without faith.