If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: (James 2:8)
One of most notable features of the epistle of James is the directness of the author’s approach to practical Christian living. In the first chapter, James said, “If you lack wisdom, ask God and He will give it to you.” He said “When you are tempted, don’t blame God because God never tempts anyone.” He said, “Don’t just listen to the word, go and do what the word says.” Those are very straightforward statements without a great deal of exposition to go along with them.
The same is true in the second chapter as James gives practical advice about how Christians should be impartial to others. This chapter begins with an example of how we are often prone to judge the worthiness of people by their prosperity. We show this in the difference we make in the way we treat those that are wealthy as opposed to the poor. These kinds of judgments are purely acts of the flesh and do not reflect the way that God treats us. Imagine if our salvation was dependent upon how much money we have in the bank!
It is the duty of God’s people to imitate the attitudes that Jesus showed in His life. Jesus never dismissed the rich as unworthy candidates for His love but neither did He court them to receive their approval. He spent most of His ministry among poor people and those that were social outcasts. If the rich thought they would receive His attention because they deserved it, He was quick to point out that all are spiritually bankrupt, all stand on level ground at the foot of the cross, and all must come to Him in the same brokenness to receive life from Him.
This is the attitude that is to be reflected in the church. Some believe they should receive more attention because they are able to drop large amounts into the offering plate, and there are many churches that accommodate such people because they trust men to supply the church’s needs rather than God. However, if we are going to imitate Christ, we will accommodate the poor in an equal manner with the rich. This treatment is summed up in James’ characteristically succinct way. The principle is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It seems kind of odd to say it this way, but do you treat yourself better depending on the worth of your investments? We love and take care of ourselves no matter where we stand economically, so to fulfill the command of scripture towards others, neither will we treat them differently depending upon their material worth.
James goes on to show that mistreatment of our fellows because of economic status is a transgression of God’s law (vv.10-11). This is as much sin as if we were to kill someone or to commit adultery. Sadly, we rarely see it this way. If we recognize it as sin at all, we do not weight it in the same way as we do other sins. James’ point is that all sin transgresses the law and all sin must be dealt with accordingly if we are to be Christ like. We can never pat ourselves on the back and say what fine Christians we are especially if we have disobeyed such a crucial law as find in James 2:8. James calls this a “royal law.” Jesus described it as one of the two foundations of God’s entire law (Matt. 22:37-40).
The next time you see a homeless person enter the church; the next time you see someone dressed a little differently and their Sunday best is not equal to yours, check your attitude towards that person. Are you judging their worth by what they wear? Your greeting of them, your fellowship with them, your care for them, your love for them—all of this speaks to whether you are really doing well. “If you fulfill the royal law…ye do well.”
Pastor V. Mark Smith