James

by Douglas Estes

Day 12

Read James 2:8-11

After noting the problem of favouritism (Day 10, James 2:1-4) and the ironies that come with it (Day 11, vv. 5-7), James moves on to show from Scripture why favouritism is wrong. As a Christian, it is not enough to feel that an action or attitude is wrong; we should also look to Scripture to determine how to live our lives. This is what James does now.

If we show favouritism, we are following worldly wisdom and rebelling against God's plan

James inserts his argument from Scripture in four steps: a good possibility, a bad possibility, a principle that supports these possibilities, and an example that supports the principle.

The good possibility (James 2:8): If we can keep the ″royal law″ in the Bible, we will be making good choices in our lives. It's only a possibility, because loving our neighbour as ourselves is not easy! But if we can do it, then we can really do good with our lives. Yet James implies that fully keeping this law is impossible, because we will always encounter situations in life when we need to love our neighbours to a greater degree than we do now.

Why does James call this the ″royal law″? He is most likely echoing the teachings of Jesus. During His public ministry, Jesus used the terms ″kingdom of God″ and ″kingdom of heaven″ to help people understand how God was moving in the world. Loving our neighbour as ourselves is not just the ″greatest commandment″ (Matthew 22:37-40), but also the foundation for kingdom-living. It is a hallmark of what God is pushing us towards.

The bad possibility (James 2:9): In contrast with living for our King, there is also a risk that we may be tempted towards worldliness and showing partiality. If we choose this bad option, then we sin, and in the eyes of God we would be ″law-breakers″.

The principle (James 2:10): James supports the conclusion of the bad possibility-that favouritism is a criminal offence against God's rule-by explaining that a person who breaks only one part breaks the entire law. Unlike many modern legal systems, in which each law stands on its own merit, God's law comes from God himself, and is all or nothing-as is the loyalty that we are to show to God. This idea is reflected in Jesus' saying that not even the smallest part of the law will disappear until it is completed (Matthew 5:18).

The example (James 2:11): Finally, James offers an example to defend his principle. If you obey one law (against adultery) but break another (against murder), you have still broken the law of God.

There are two kinds of wisdom-one that leads to ″royal″ behaviour, and one that leads to ″criminal″ behaviour. If we show favouritism, we are following worldly wisdom and rebelling against God's plan. The good news is, God generously gives us the right kind of wisdom if we ask, so that we may honour Him throughout our lives.


Think through:

Why are God's laws so important? Why are they more important than human laws? Why must we keep God's laws above all else?

How can we avoid being ″law-breakers″ (James 2:9) as we try to live in a world that constantly shows favouritism?

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About Author

Douglas Estes (PhD, Nottingham) is Associate Professor of New Testament and Practical Theology at South University. He is the editor of Didaktikos: Journal of Theological Education, and is a regular science contributor at Christianity Today. Douglas has written or edited eight books, as well as numerous essays, articles, and reviews for both popular and scholarly publications. He also served in pastoral ministry for sixteen years.

Author of Journey Through Series:

Our Daily Bread Journey Through® Series is a publication of Our Daily Bread Ministries.

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