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James 2:4

ESV have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
NIV have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
NASB have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?
CSB haven’t you made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
NLT doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?
KJV Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
NKJV have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?

What does James 2:4 mean?

James has been painting a picture of favoritism or partiality. Today, we might call it discrimination. In this particular example, James is commanding Christians not to discriminate against poor people in favor of rich people. In the previous verses, James wrote that those who trust in Christ—the Lord of Glory—must not show favoritism. He then describes a scenario that may well have happened at some gatherings of Christians: people of wildly different status arriving at the meeting. After all, it's what would happen in their culture at any normal gathering of any group of people.

Rich, powerful people in that society were given places of honor and special attention at gatherings. Poor, dirty people would have been glad just to be allowed to stand in the corner or even to sit on the floor. This was for many of the same reasons rich people are unfairly favored today. Rich people could do things for you if they liked you. They could provide money and influence and even protection. Poor people couldn't do anything for you, at least not in terms of material help.

James's point, in the end, will be that people who trust the Lord of Glory should be confident that He will provide. They don't need the favor of the rich. They can afford to give their favor to the poor and rich equally. Imagine the shocking contrast that would be in a culture where poor people were treated so badly.

Now, in the form of a question, James states that this kind of favoritism is deeply sinful. Christians who show this kind of bias reveal their lack of faith. They fail to trust in God's equal love for all His children in Christ. Acting in prejudice shows they didn't really believe that Christians who are poor in this life will be equal heirs of the riches of glory forever. Instead, they made themselves the judges, distinguishing who was worthy of honor and attention and who was not. Their discrimination revealed their evil, earthly way of thinking.
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