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James 2:1-13

Read James 2:1-7

  • What does James say is wrong about judging people by the appearance of wealth or poverty?

  • How does this relate to the preceding verse, 1:27?

  • Historically, churches have been known to engage in practices which favoured the rich and powerful, like selling reserved seats to wealthy church members or excluding poorer members from decision-making. Can you think of any modern-day examples of wealthier Christians having advantages over those who are less well off? Or churches in wealthier neighbourhoods or countries having advantages of those in poorer regions?

Read Deuteronomy 10:17-19

  • How does this famous statement from the Old Testament law underpin what James is teaching here?

  • How do we make sense of the favouritism of God for the "poor in the eyes of the world" (see Luke 6:20 and 1 Corinthians 1:27-28 for two other examples)?

  • How then should we view one another when it comes to wealth and poverty? [1]

Read James 2:8-13

  • The royal law of Jesus, that is, the law of the Kingdom of God, is summed up as "Love your neighbour as yourself." How does judging others (showing favour to some more than others) break this law from God?

Read Matthew 7:1-5

  • How do these words of Jesus underpin what James is teaching here?

  • What do you think James means by the phrase "Mercy triumphs over judgement"? [2]

  • How often do 'good' and 'religious' people stumble at this particular point?

  • Do you find yourself stumbling like this? How can we avoid this? (hint: look at verses 12-13)

  • How does the mercy of God received through Jesus' death on the cross for us reveal God's heart for mercy? And if we have received God's mercy, how should that make us more merciful to others?

Spend some time in quiet personal reflection:

  • Is there anyone in your life who you find yourself favouring because of their wealth or social status (or anyone you are prejudiced against because of their poverty)?

  • Is there anyone in your life who you find yourself regarding with judgement instead of mercy?

  • How might you obey the "royal law" and love these neighbours rightly this week?

  • Spend some time in prayer, praising God for the mercy and acceptance he has shown you, and asking for his help in showing that same mercy to others.

[1] J. A. Motyer writes this reflection on verses 1-7:

Imagine being on duty at the church door and being suddenly faced with both a well-dressed stranger and an unkempt, maybe smelly, tramp! It is so often in just such a way that experience tests our grasp of Christian principles of behaviour. James offers us three pointers to correct reactions: first, think of Jesus as the (true) glory: he came right down to the poorest level, identifying himself with the least and worst. If our faith rests in him who is the glory (v1), then how shall we behave? Secondly, James urges us to think of the mind of God (v5): what choice did he make and, in consequence, how would he choose now? And thirdly, James reminds us of our own new position—that we (the least and the worst) have been enriched in faith and hope; it has been granted to us to believe in God and to love him; we are his heirs and have been called by his name. In what way, then, will the family likeness of such a Father show itself in us? And what should be our assessment of earthly wealth and position, who have been brought to see and to share true and eternal riches?

J. A. Motyer, Bible Speaks Today: James, p93.

[2] N.T. Wright has some good insights for this verse:

God’s mercy is sovereign. It will triumph. But the minute you say ‘Oh well, that’s all right then; God will forgive, so it doesn’t matter what I do’ — and, in particular, when ‘what I do’ includes discriminating against the poor — then, precisely because God is the God of mercy, he must act in judgment. He will not for ever tolerate a world in which mercy is not the ultimate rule of life. ‘Mercy’ isn’t the same as a shoulder-shrugging ‘tolerance’, an ‘anything goes’ attitude to life. ‘Anything’ doesn’t ‘go’. ‘Anything’ includes arrogance, corruption, blasphemy, favouritism and lawbreaking of all kinds. If God was ‘merciful’ to that lot, he would be deeply unmerciful to the poor, the helpless, the innocent and the victims. And the whole gospel insists that in precisely those cases his mercy shines out most particularly. So must ours.

N.T. Wright, Letters For Everyone, p16.


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