A letter from Jesus' brother

This devotional is written by Bella Whiteway. Bella is 25 years old and still watches Spongebob.

James 2:1-13

Favouritism forbidden
2 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, 'Here's a good seat for you,' but say to the poor man, 'You stand there' or 'Sit on the floor by my feet,' 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonoured the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, 'Love your neighbour as yourself,'[a] you are doing right. 9 But if you show favouritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as law-breakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, 'You shall not commit adultery,'[b] also said, 'You shall not murder.'[c] If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a law-breaker.

12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.


Reflection

When I first read James 2:1-13 I thought to myself, “I would never say to a poor person you can stand over there or sit on the floor so maybe this passage doesn’t apply to me and I’m just a really great Christian”. Then I started to think about the historical context of this passage. At the time telling a poor person to “sit over there” would have been common practice. Nowadays, such strictly defined social divisions are less obvious or less openly practiced but we do not live in a world where this does not exist. Despite my pride initially making me feel like this passage doesn’t apply to me because I wouldn’t actively tell someone to sit separately from me, I have since realised that my reaction shows I am James’s target audience for this message. Over the last year I think it would be hard to ignore that we live in a world where there are communities that have less voice than others and certain people are treated more favourably than others. But God operates differently and in this passage James is calling us to do the same. James goes as far as to question whether we can truly call ourselves Christians if we are not going against the accepted patterns of social interaction. If we are to live like true Christians we must live without partiality, as Jesus did. We are told we will be judged by the “Law that sets you free”, which, as James reminds us, is to love our neighbours as ourselves. I like this quote by Simone Weil because it makes this feel achievable: “The love of our neighbor in all its fullness simply means being able to say, ‘What are you going through?’”

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