What does James 2:9 mean?
ESV: But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
NIV: But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.
NASB: But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the Law as violators.
CSB: If, however, you show favoritism, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
NLT: But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.
KJV: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
James now declares that to show favoritism to someone because of their wealth or power in society is, simply put, a sin. In doing so, we break the command to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We become lawbreakers. James is clearly concerned that his readers understand how serious this issue of giving preferential treatment is. God cares deeply that His children refuse to judge each other based on the standards of the world. James's focus here was on showing favoritism to wealthy, powerful people, but the same can be said of discriminating based on race, gender, or other factors.
Within the community of Christians, there must be no castes of people: we are not to divide the world into levels or ranks of human beings. As Paul wrote in Colossians 3:11, "Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all."
This teaching was one of the reasons Christianity attracted so many people so quickly. The world was dominated by the Roman caste system that defined the relative value of every person. The idea that in Christ everyone is of equal value in the eyes of God and the eyes of His children was revolutionary. It's essential that Christians show each other that we genuinely believe this is true.
James 2:1–13 continues the prior passage's focus on Christians living out what the Word of God says. Those who hold the faith of Christ should obey the command to love our neighbors as ourselves. This includes not showing favoritism to the rich over the poor. Christians should trust God to provide for and protect them, instead of seeking the favor of the very group of people who were oppressing them in the first place. According to the gospel, all of us are lawbreakers. Christians, as people who believe they will be judged by the law that gives freedom, should treat all others as equals.
Genuine saving faith in God leads to good and loving actions: ''works.'' In chapter 1, James discussed the importance of acting on the words of God, not merely hearing them. Favoritism to the rich over the poor demonstrates a lack of faith. In fact, this is a sin. Following up on these ideas, James insists that ''faith'' which doesn't result in good works is dead. Such belief is merely intellectual agreement. It is not trust, or true, biblical saving faith. James doesn't deny that belief in God is essential to salvation, nor does he claim that works are necessary to obtain salvation. Rather, he makes the case that works are to faith what the breath is to the body: a sign of life. A ''faith'' without works is like a body without breath: dead.
In chapter 1, James taught that a saving belief in God changes how a Christian looks at trials in their lives. It affects where they turn for help, and who they credit for good. Believers hear the Word and do it. In this chapter, James insists that our faith in God should keep us from showing favoritism to the rich and powerful on earth and should provoke us to love our poor neighbors as ourselves. He also makes the case that so-called-''faith'' which does not result in works, is not saving faith, at all. Despite controversy, this does not clash with Paul's view of salvation by grace alone. James refers to good works as an expected outcome of salvation, not the source of it. In the following chapters, he will continue to show what a life of genuine faith looks like.
The book of James is about specifically understanding what saving faith looks like. How does faith in Christ reveal itself in a believer's life? What choices does real trust in God lead us to make? Those are the questions James answers. Most scholars believe the writer was Jesus' half-brother, a son born to Joseph and Mary after Jesus' birth. James may not have come to believe Jesus was the Messiah until after the resurrection. Eventually, though, he became one of the leaders of the Christian church in Jerusalem. This is possibly the earliest-written of all the New Testament books, around AD 40–50. James addresses his letter to Jewish Christians scattered around the known world.
Accessed 11/30/2023 6:08:24 AM
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