Too often we judge a person by their financial wealth and ability to produce. We give fine seats to those who have money and influence and place them above others. Through God, however, this system is turned on it’s head. God, having all the riches of the world, chose to come to those who were poor and in need. Likewise, James exhorts the readers to do the same. Money causes problems and conflict and generally serves as the sign the world uses for worth, even intrinsic worth. With God, however, the sign of worth comes from knowing and being known by our creator and heavenly Father.
‘My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 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,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: 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? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong? But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. ‘
Showing Favoritism to Money
Our culture seems to give preferential treatment to people who have wealth, influence, and celebrity. People are honored simply because they have money and influence. Yet, these same people come back and fight for the money and influence, clinging to it tightly when pressed. This different treatment of people based on their status and wealth runs antithetical to the Gospel. Christ came for all mankind. Jesus is the great equalizing, choosing not to create a class based system but making everyone equal in the eyes of the Lord. Likewise, we should treat one another the same. Everyone’s worth and value is based on their being made in the image of God, not on their ability to earn and achieve. We are saved by grace and not by our works.
Mercy for All People
Thus, as James concludes this section, the idea of mercy is clarified and brought back into focus. Mercy should always triumph over judgment. The only person who had the right to cast judgment is the perfect God. Yet, rather than cast judgment, God gave mercy to people and provided a way for their salvation. People were not grouped into various classes of people, but God desired that each and every one of them would have the opportunity for salvation and relationship with Him. We are called to treat people in the same way and see people how God sees them. People are not tools for us to use and benefit from, but rather are our brothers and sisters in Christ that we can all pursue Him together.