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Ron Miller's Bible Commentary

James 2: Serve with Compassion

Background and QuestionsNew International VersionRon Miller's Notes

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{2:1}My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. {2:2} Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. {2:3} If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," {2:4} have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Preferential treatment is much the same today. Do we sit next to a shabby person in our Sunday suit? One would hope that such distinctions are not being made. Do we only sit with people who are just like us?

Jesus said, in Matthew 5:3-5, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth."
What has God promised to the poor of this world?

{2:5} Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? {2:6} But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? {2:7} Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?

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Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. (Leviticus 19:18)
How can we love our neighbor? (What can we do?)

{2:8} If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right. {2:9} But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. {2:10} For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. {2:11} For he who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

Jesus taught the Golden Rule, but James is quoting from Leviticus, one of the very earliest books of the Bible written by Moses. God has always been concerned that His people love others.


If we lie, even a 'white' lie, but do not murder, we are a lawbreaker. We like to think that we are better than a murderer (and in some sense we are), but James reminds us that breaking ANY law makes us a sinner.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2nd Corinthians 5:10)
Why should we be merciful?

{2:12} Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, {2:13} because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!

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{2:14} What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? {2:15} Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. {2:16} If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?

True believing faith trusts that what God wants us to do is best, and obeys and serves God.
Only asking for help for another person, and not helping them ourselves, is simply empty words. True concern shows itself in action.

What is wrong with having faith without deeds?

{2:17} In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Just as true concern for another person shows itself in action, true faith in God shows itself in works. It produces works (but faith in God is not a result of works).

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{2:18} But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. {2:19} You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder.

Demons 'know' that God exists, but they neither love Him nor serve Him. Simply knowing that God exists is not saving faith. Saving faith is trusting God, and trusting that obeying Him is best.

The story of Abraham offering Isaac is recorded in Genesis 22.

{2:20} You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? {2:21} Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? {2:22} You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. {2:23} And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. {2:24} You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

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Rahab took in Hebrew spies, before the battle of Jericho, hid them, and helped them escape from the city safely. (See Joshua 2.) She apparently believed the Hebrews God's people, and knew the LORD would give them victory. If she simply believed this, but did not protect the spies, she would have died with the rest of the city. As it was, her faith and actions resulted in her and her family being saved from death.

{2:25} In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?

James does not mention that Rahab lied, and her telling a lie is not approved of or condemned here - James simply commends her actions in protecting the Hebrew spies based on her trust in the Hebrew God.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. [Romans 5:1}

{2:26} As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

The Apostle Paul taught that we are justified (considered 'right' in God's eyes) simply by our faith, and not by our own efforts to follow God's laws and do good. James does not disagree, but simply teaches that those who have faith in God have a 'living' faith, which lives to please God. Is your faith a 'living' faith that strives to please God?

How can you change the way you look at wealth this week so that you value it as God does?

What is the difference between someone who talks about a problem and someone who does something about the problem?

How can you show greater faith in God by what you do this week?


Ron Miller's Bible Commentary (C) Copyright March 2012 by Ronald Miller, All Rights Reserved