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James 2:6

ESV But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court?
NIV 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?
NASB But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?
CSB Yet you have dishonored the poor. Don't the rich oppress you and drag you into court?
NLT But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court?
KJV But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?

What does James 2:6 mean?

James continues his thought from the previous verse. There, he reminded readers that God had made Christians who are poor in this life rich in faith right now, and rich in His kingdom forever. That is the promise God has made to those who love Him. He phrases this in the form of a question. James's Christian readers would, of course, answer "yes" to that question.

James's goal is to convey a crucial point: treating Christian brothers and sisters, rich or poor, as men and women worthy of equal honor only makes sense. When we fail to do so, he writes, we dishonor those who are poor.

Then James expands his argument. To give the rich special treatment makes no sense for another reason: As a group, the rich of the first century treated Christians very badly. We don't know all of the specific circumstances James is referring to here, but it seems clear that most of James's readers, and most Christians of this time, were poor people. They lived in a society where the wealthy became wealthier and more powerful. They often did so, in part, by using their money to influence the courts, in order to gain land that wasn't theirs. They used their riches to force the poor to work that land, often under terrible conditions.

Of course, not every rich person of James's era was guilty of all of these things. Nor are rich people today all guilty of such abuse. In this particular time and place, however, James writes that the rich had been guilty of oppressing and exploiting his Christian readers. The rich have been guilty of taking them to court, abusing them, and taking advantage of them.

This makes the force of James's point about favoritism clear, both spiritually and practically. It's foolish for Christians to give preferential treatment to the rich, in the hopes of getting better treatment, when the rich are the very ones mistreating them!
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