[Editor’s Note: Sabbath School Lessons writer the Rev. Dr. L. Robert LaMay joined the ranks of Christ’s good and faithful servants on 29 December 2013, when he passed from this world into the arms of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Please pray for the Christian Observer as we, D.V., strive to provide the same quality of Reformed Sabbath School lessens as Dr. LaMay did so well for so many years.]
Matthew Henry writes that, in the second chapter of Epistle of James, “the apostle condemns a sinful regarding of the rich, and despising the poor, which he imputes to partiality and injustice, and shows it to be an acting contrary to God, who has chosen the poor, and whose interest is often persecuted, and his name blasphemed, by the rich (vv. 1–7). He shows that the whole law is to be fulfilled, and that mercy should be followed, as well as justice (vv. 8–13).”
John Calvin reminds us that we are called to honor those who are elevated in the world, and that servants have specific responsibilities of subjection to their masters, but that we are not to pay honor to “higher-ups” in such a way that despises or reproaches those of a lowlier state in the world.
James sets for us the example of our Lord Jesus Christ and his welcome to persons from all walks of life. He then gives an example of a host that welcomes a man with a gold ring and fancy clothing, while at the same time he treats another guest that is poor with distain and banishes him to the lowliest of places in the host’s house. James then points out, in verse 4, the sinful and evil thoughts involved in this kind of behavior, in contrast to the example given by our Lord and Savior.
James then calls us to remember that God in his sovereignty and providence has chosen the poor of the world to demonstrate richness in faith and be promised heirs of his kingdom. James then reminds us that, by showing partiality of this kind, we despise the poor, while it is the rich that are most often those that oppress us and haul us before the secular judgment seats. Calvin aptly describes this behavior as being “without reason or judgment who through ambition honored their executioners, and in the mean time injured their own friends, at least those for whom they never suffered any wrong.”
James next reminds us of the second part of the Great Commandment, in that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, and that showing respect for persons by their station in life or their riches is a transgression of the commandment. James implies that the Christian is prone to deny to himself that he has transgressed God’s Law if he has fulfilled only a part of the law, that is, partial obedience is disobedience.
James exhorts us to conduct ourselves as those that are under the blood of Jesus Christ rather than those that are under the law, reminding us to show the mercy of Jesus Christ to our neighbor so that we may be judged by God with the same mercy. Jesus Christ taught us to pray to God for such mercy in Matthew 6:12: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
What are some of the practical applications of James 2:1–13 in regard to the church?
How does this Scripture apply to the choosing of leaders within the church, such as ruling elders and deacons?
Lessons are based on the International Sunday School Lessons for Christian Teaching, copyright © 2014 by the Committee on the Uniform Series.
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