James 2:1-4 ESV
“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ while you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there,’ or, ‘Sit down at my feet,’ have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”
We, as followers of Jesus Christ, are not to give preferential treatment to people based on outward appearance, or on social status, or on wealth or popularity or talent or whatever – all things which are external, not of the heart. Just because someone dresses nicely or is beautiful outwardly, by fleshly standards, we should not treat him or her better than we would someone who is in shabby clothes or who may be homely (in man’s eyes).
For, God doesn’t look at the outward appearance. He looks at the heart. But humans tend to judge by outward appearance. So, we must guard against that, for it is wrong. It is sinful if we treat some people poorly and others with dignity and honor just because of what is external. So, we need to pray to see all people through the eyes of God and not through the lens of the flesh of mankind. And we need to love all people as God loves them.
James 2:8-11 ESV
“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.”
We, as followers of Jesus Christ, are commanded of God to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. But if we show partiality by treating some people better than others, just because of how they look, or how they dress (if they dress like they are poor), or what their social status is, then we are guilty of being law breakers, even if we might be those who keep all the rest of the royal law perfectly.
So, if we don’t commit adultery, and we don’t murder, and we don’t gossip, but we treat some people with disdain just because their physical appearance is not as nice as others, then we are sinning against the law which says we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. For, we aren’t loving them as we love ourselves, are we? So, we need to be made aware that this is a sin in God’s eyes so that we don’t commit that sin.
But does that mean, as some people interpret this, that if we sin in one point that we are guilty of all sin? What would that look like? Well, that would mean if a person gossiped one time, he or she would now be an adulterer, a liar, a thief, a fornicator, and a murderer, etc. And if that were the case, then we would all be bound for hell, because the Scriptures teach that no liars, adulterers, and murderers, etc., will enter the kingdom of heaven.
Okay, so does God make any distinction at all between this sin or that sin? Yes! But the distinction he makes is based on practice and on whether we are walking in obedience to him or whether we are living in disobedience to him. Just like in the Old Testament, God still sees obedience (in practice) as faith and disobedience (in practice) as unbelief. The obedience coming from faith results in eternal life, but disobedience in practice results in death.
For, if we sow to please the flesh, we will reap destruction, but if we sow to please the Spirit, we will reap eternal life. If sin is what we practice, we will not inherit eternal life, but if righteousness is what we practice, then we have eternal life. If sin is what we are obeying, in practice, it results in death, but if obedience is what we practice, it ends in eternal life.
So, if we sin in one point, we become a law breaker, true. But if we are followers of Jesus, and Christ lives within us by his Spirit, our sins are forgiven and Jesus is our advocate with the Father. But we are supposed to daily be dying with Christ to sin and living daily to his righteousness, by the grace of God, and in the power, wisdom, and strength of God’s Spirit.
But if we make sin our practice, and righteousness is not what we practice, then we don’t have forgiveness of sins nor eternal life with God.
So, God has made the distinction here that shows that not all sin is the same in God’s eyes. For, habitual and deliberate sin ends in death, but making righteousness our practice, by God’s Spirit, ends in eternal life. And if we do sin, and we are repentant (we change), we do not receive the same recompense as those who habitually and deliberately continue in their sin.
[Lu 9:23-26; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; 1 Co 6:9-10; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Rev 21:8, 27; Rev 22:14-15]
James 2:12-13 ESV
“So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
Now, this is where it can get sticky. The subject is judging by externals and by human standards, and that is a sin. So is judging hypocritically, or judging others by ourselves, or with wrong motives, or unjustly, or falsely, etc. For that is being merciless. But not all judging is wrong and not all distinguishing between people is wrong, either.
The Scriptures do teach us to make distinctions between those who are liars and those who are truth tellers, between teachers of what is false and those who teach what is truth, and between those who are living immoral lives in deliberate habitual sin and those who are living righteously, by faith in Jesus Christ, though not necessarily in absolute sinless perfection.
But the reasoning for those judgments is not so we can mistreat people or so we can get even with them or cause them harm. The reasoning is that we make those judgements so that we don’t fall into sin, and so that we aren’t deceived, and so that we can speak the truth in love to others and expose the lies and proclaim the truth so that those who believe in Jesus can be set free from their slavery to sin and so they can walk in God’s righteousness.
And that is showing mercy. For it is what the law of liberty teaches.
Also, some externals do fall into the category of morality or immorality, for some people who claim faith in Jesus Christ dress and pose themselves very seductively and so they are seducing others to sin, to lust. But we are to dress modestly and respectably, like those of godly character who want to lead others to righteous and holy living. For, we want to lead others to Jesus, not to our flesh. And we want to walk in obedience to our Lord.
I Surrender All
Hymn lyrics by Judson W. Van De Venter, 1896
Music by Winfield S. Weeden, 1896
… Lo, we have left all, and have followed Thee. (Mark 10:28)
All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.
All to Jesus I surrender,
Humbly at His feet I bow;
Worldly pleasures all forsaken,
Take me, Jesus, take me now.
All to Jesus I surrender,
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power,
Let Thy blessing fall on me.
I surrender all,
I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.
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