The Royal Law of Love Excludes Prejudice
1My dear brothers and sisters, fellow believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ—how could we say that we have faith in him and yet we favor one group of people above another? # 2:1 The Aramaic can be translated “Don’t be taken in by the face mask of people, but hold to the faith in the glory of our Lord Jesus the Messiah.” 2Suppose an influential man comes into your worship meeting wearing gold rings and expensive clothing, and also a homeless man in shabby clothes comes in. 3If you show special attention to the rich man in expensive clothes and say, “Here’s a seat of honor for you right up front!” but you turn and say to the poor beggar dressed in rags, “You can stand over here,” or “Sit over there on the floor in the back,” # 2:3 The Aramaic can be translated “Sit on the floor before our footstool.” 4then you’ve demonstrated gross prejudice among yourselves and used evil standards of judgment!
5So listen carefully, my dear brothers and sisters, hasn’t God chosen # 2:5 The Greek word for “chosen” is eklegomai, which is a form of lego (speak). the poor in the world’s eyes to be those who are rich in faith? # 2:5 See 1 Cor. 1:27–28. And won’t they be the heirs of the kingdom-realm he promised to those who love him? 6But yet you insult and shun the poor in your efforts to impress the rich! # 2:6 See also 1 Cor. 11:22. Isn’t it the wealthy who exploit you and drag you into court? 7Aren’t they the very ones who blaspheme the beautiful name of the One you now belong to? # 2:7 Or “the worthy name which was invoked over you (at your baptism).”
8Your calling is to fulfill the royal law of love # 2:8 It is a royal law because it is given by our King, but since he has made us kings and priests, it becomes the royal law of love given to his royal sons and daughters who are heirs with him. as given to us in this Scripture: “You must love and value your neighbor as you love and value yourself!” # 2:8 See Lev. 19:18; Matt. 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Rom. 13:9; Gal. 5:14.
For keeping this law is the noble way to live. 9But when you show prejudice you commit sin and you violate this royal law of love!
10For the one who attempts to keep all of the law of Moses but fails in just one point has become guilty of breaking the law in every respect! 11For the same One who tells us, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” # 2:11 See Ex. 20:13–14. Now if you don’t commit adultery but do commit murder, you are still guilty as a law-breaker. 12So we must both speak and act in every respect like those who are destined to be tried by the perfect law of liberty, 13and remember that judgment is merciless for the one who judges others without mercy. So by showing mercy, you take dominion over judgment! # 2:13 As translated from the Aramaic. The Greek is “Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
14My dear brothers and sisters, what good is it if someone claims to have faith but demonstrates no good works to prove it? How could this kind of faith save anyone? 15For example, if a brother or sister in the faith is poorly clothed and hungry 16and you leave them saying, “Good-bye. I hope you stay warm and have plenty to eat,” but you don’t provide them with a coat or even a cup of soup, what good is your faith? 17So then faith that doesn’t involve action is phony. # 2:17 Or “dead (fruitless).” See also v. 20.
18But someone might object and say, “One person has faith and another person has works.” # 2:18 Many scholars conclude that the ambiguity of the Greek text makes this the most difficult verse in all of James and perhaps in all of the New Testament to translate. Go ahead then and prove to me that you have faith without works and I will show you faith by my works as proof that I believe. 19You can believe all you want that there is one true God, # 2:19 Or “that God is one,” which is the Jewish Shema (see Deut. 6:4). that’s wonderful! But even the demons know this and tremble with fear before him, # 2:19 The Aramaic can be translated “they writhe on their bellies in the dirt!” yet they’re unchanged—they remain demons.
20O feeble sons of Adam, # 2:20 As translated from the Aramaic. The Greek is “O empty man.” do you need further evidence that faith divorced from good works is phony? 21Wasn’t our ancestor Abraham found righteous before God because of his works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22Can’t you see how his action cooperated with his faith and by his action faith found its full expression? 23So in this way the Scripture was fulfilled:
Because Abraham believed God, his faith was exchanged for God’s righteousness. # 2:23 Or “Abraham’s faith was credited to his account for righteousness.” See Gen. 15:6.
So he became known as the lover of God! # 2:23 Or “the one whom God loved,” as translated from the Aramaic. Although the Greek text is most often translated “friend of God,” the Greek word philos can also be used as the love that bonds friends together. See also 2 Chron. 20:7; Isa. 41:18; Dan. 3:35 (LXX). 24So now it’s clear that a person is seen as righteous in God’s eyes not merely by faith alone, but by his works.
25And the same is true of the prostitute named Rahab who was found righteous in God’s eyes by her works, for she received the spies into her home and helped them escape from the city by another route. # 2:25 See Josh. 2. 26For just as a human body without the spirit is a dead corpse, so faith without the expression of good works is dead!