James 2

1 James proclaims Jesus as the Lord, Christ, and Lord of glory. It is clear that he saw Jesus as both Messiah and God. There is only one God and one Savior, and every person is in equal need of Him. We can not play favorites with the Gospel. There is no one who is any more or less worthy of receiving it. Without it, every person is doomed, and by accepting it, any person can be saved. God desires that every person come to know Him. Since we are imitators of Christ, we must also desire that people know Him, no matter what their place in life might happen to be.
2 James gives an example of how a congregation might show partiality based on one's apparent wealth. There may be any number of other criteria for partiality: attractiveness, fame, power, cleanliness, etc.
3 The parable is about an usher who would sit people according to their apparent worldly rank. Those who appear favorable are given good places to sit, but the unfavorable one is given a lowly position. The distinction is obvious and intentional.
4 It them becomes a question of motives. Since the Gospel is indifferent to a person's status in life, then partiality shown within the church comes from ulterior motives. Might the church expect a large donation from a rich man treated with honor? Might the church boast of its congregation filled with influential people? These things are not attained if the poor are encouraged to attend a congregation. It is easy to see that these motivations are contrary to the nature of the Gospel because it builds up worldly pride rather than spiritual humility before God.
5 Jesus spoke of the difficulty of a rich man entering the kingdom of God in Mat 19:24. Most of Jesus' initial followers were not wealthy people. The poor seem to have an easier time learning to depend on God. One reason is that they are not tempted to depend on wealth, since they do not have it. As Christians, we are to consider that those who have little worldly wealth may have exceeding spiritual wealth. True wealth is not measured by the amount of gold one has, but the closeness of his relationship with God. If anything, we should be honoring those who are rich in Christ and learn from him.
6 One might also consider that the rich tend to be a source of hardship for Christians, rather than help. The wealthy can afford lawyers and will take advantage of other people. They can use their power and influence to diminish the effectiveness of the Church. It is then ironic that a church body would show special favoritism towards such people while dishonoring those who are truly faithful to God. The humble person, whether rich or poor, will benefit the church, but the proud rich man will do much more harm than a proud poor person could do.
7 The wealthy blaspheme God when they demand honor over people and God. They also blaspheme God when they trust their wealth and influence more than they trust God. They mislead the church if they entice people to pursue money and pleasure rather than faithful obedience to God. It is tempting for many to make wealth an idol, and every idol is an affront to God.
8 James echoes the second of the greatest commandments that Jesus uses to summarize the Law and the Prophets in Mat 22:37-40 (also Lev 19:18). Since James is speaking to believers, we know that they already loved God. However, the Bible makes it clear that our relationship with others is a reflection of our relationship with God. Thus, if we truly love God, we will love people as well. James calls this the Royal Law.
9 When we love others as we love ourselves, we have only one measure to go by. When we begin to defer to people based on either their influence or our pity, we become more concerned about their circumstances than their intrinsic value as a person. We also begin to consider people based on the subjective and constantly changing standards of the world rather than the unconditional love of God. The Christian knows that he is loved by God and that his salvation is secure no matter what his circumstances may be. Would the Christian still value himself if he were either wealthy or poor, influential or despised? Yes, because he is assured that God still sees him as His child.

This ties in with the Law as expressed in Lev 19:18. When we evaluate people based on subjective standards, we violate what God has commanded us to do.

10 Why is this important to consider? The two Great Commandments deal with our relationship with God and with other people. Thus, if a person shows partiality then he has automatically violated half of God's law. Since this causes and unavoidable negative impact on his relationship with God, the offender of the second half unwittingly violates the first half. Thus, but breaking one point of this law, the whole law is violated.
11 James gives an example from the Mosaic Law. The point is that whether a person is guilty of one crime or another, the general term "lawbreaker" is used to describe him.
12 The Law of Liberty is the Law of Christ. Through His death, we are freed from the bondage of sin (i.e., those things that separate us from God). As Christians, we are now free to be the people God intended us to be -- those who have a loving relationship with Him and other people. Since we know we are to have these kinds of relationships, our inward thoughts should be to love others without partiality and our outward behavior should be consistent with this.
13 When we show partiality, we are not showing mercy. When we look down on others because of their circumstances, we are not seeing them as God sees them. This is the attitude of the world, and the world will perish because of it. Since God has had mercy on us, we must have mercy on others. It pleases God when He sees His people displaying His characteristics.
19 Some people feel that it is enough that they "believe in God." However, such a belief does not itself bring salvation. James states that the demons know and believe that there is only one God, and yet it is obvious that they are banished from God's presence. Belief in God does not necessarily mean that the person has faith in, trusts, obeys, or loves Him. In James' argument, when someone has true faith in God he will show this faith through what he does.
20 Even if faith could be an end in itself, it would not profit anyone. Faith in God must be faith in action.
21 God had already declared that Abraham was righteous in Gen 15:6 after Abraham showed obedience by moving to Canaan. However, it was necessary to test Abraham again later to see if he would remain faithful to God. In Gen 22:9-12, Abraham was obedient to God's unusual request and was proven to be faithful by his actions.
22 The point is that we can say we have faith, but that faith is proven by acts of obedience.

It is important to remember that works in the context of James is acting in obedience to God, not doing something of our own accord in an attempt to win favor from God or others.

23 God called Abraham His friend in Isa 41:8. Being a friend is more than just something you say about another person. It is also more than communicating with someone. Friends care about each other's needs and will take action when they can help.

Jesus builds on this by telling us that when we are friends with Him, we will do what He commands (John 15:14). It is not enough to know about Jesus. One must develop an intimate relationship with Him. Part of this involves allowing Him to direct our lives and act in obedience.

24 Faith is necessary for salvation, but it also requires that we act in obedience. If one refuses to do what God wants him to, it is an indication that his faith is either weak or imaginary. One is proven faithful by obedience to God.
25 Rahab may not have been the only person in Jericho who believed that God would deliver the town into Israel's hands, but she was the only one who acted on that faith (Josh 2). In so doing, she proved her faith and was rewarded with her own life and the lives of her family members. Even beyond that, she became part of the Royal Line of Israel and changed her reputation from "prostitute" to "faithful."
26 Before we were born of the spirit, we appeared to be alive, but we were actually dead in God's eyes. In the same way, someone may claim to have faith, but if he refuses to be obedient and faithful to God, then there is no evidence to support the claim.