Today's Question: Broadly speaking, what are the major issues James confronts in Chapter 2, and what is the gist of his arguments?
In Chapter 2 James discusses three important correlations that all Christians would do well to heed. The first (verses 1-9), addresses the relationship between the rich and poor. James scoffs at Christians who cater to the rich while ignoring the plight of poor people, and speaks of scoffers as unrighteous judges with evil thoughts. He also makes the point that such actions contradict the faith exemplified by Jesus, and redefines riches to no longer be based on material wealth, but on the priceless value of a poor person’s faith. James also teaches that even though it is the rich who oppress and blaspheme, true believers should still love them. Lastly, he informed us that those who put the interests of the rich ahead of the poor, commit sin by their actions.
The second correlation (verses 10-13), addresses the relationship between mercy and judgment, and those who fail to extend mercy to others will not receive God’s mercy during judgment! James informs us that it is a fallacy to believe that a Christian can get into Heaven based upon his/her own righteousness, because if a person breaks any part of God’s law, they have broken it all! Therefore, all must come before God’s judgment seat. The difference is the merciful also will receive God’s mercy because mercy triumphs over judgment!
The third correlation addresses the relationship between faith and works, and James nullifies any faith that is based strictly on belief (or mental assent), because true faith impels Christ’s true followers to address the prevailing needs of the downtrodden. That need may be food, shelter, or clothing, but if all a Christian does is pronounce a blessing on that needy person, when it is within his/her power to supply that which is needed, their blessing is meaningless because faith without works is dead! James gives examples of two Biblical characters who were rewarded for living out their faith through action: Abraham and Rahab. And just like a body without any spirit is dead, James teaches that faith without works is also dead, vain, and meaningless!
Next Week’s Question: There should be little disagreement that discrimination remains a part of the social fabric of America, so what are the underlying problems with showing partiality or favoritism, as commanded by James in James 2:1-9?