Today’s selected reading continues in the epistle written by James unto the twelve tribes which were scattered abroad. More specifically today’s passage begins with the fourteenth verse of the second chapter and continues through to the final verse of the third chapter of this New Testament book. “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see them how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:14-26).
“My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: but the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? Either a vine, figs? So can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh” (James 3:1-12).
“Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (James 3:13-18).
When you come to the second chapter of the epistle written by James the half-brother of the Lord Jesus you will encounter incredible language concerning our lives as the saints of God and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have to admit that I have read the second chapter of the epistle written by James numerous times and each time I read the words contained therein I am captivated and gripped with the intense language that is present. It is absolutely impossible to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and not be brought face to face with two of the greatest dangers plaguing many churches within our culture, society and generation today. We would be incredibly naïve to think and consider—even for a moment—that the words which are presented here in this passage of Scripture pertained and only had relevance for those to whom James was writing. We know from the opening verse of this epistle that James was writing unto the twelve tribes of Israel which were scattered abroad throughout the earth. Scripture is not clear where these individuals and families were and we must needs understand that those to whom James was writing were not only scattered throughout Judaea and Galilee but were also scattered throughout Samaria and the surrounding nations, lands and regions. There is not a doubt in my mind that when we read this epistle we are not only reading words which were written unto those who knew the Law of Moses but those who were invited to walk in and according to a new law—the royal law of the Lord Jesus Christ which was manifested and displayed within the four gospels.
As I read the words found within this epistle I can’t help but be brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding the language James used when speaking to his brethren which were scattered abroad throughout the earth. What we find within this passage of Scripture is a powerful exhortation and admonishment unto these which were scattered concerning their treatment of those who entered in among them in their midst as well as those who were present in the midst of their houses and churches. If there is one thing we must needs recognize when reading the words found in this epistle it’s that James wasn’t merely writing unto the twelve tribes which were scattered abroad throughout and upon the face of the earth but he was writing unto those of the twelve tribes of Israel who knew the gospel and who were perhaps worshippers of the living God and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this incredible truth for when we read the words presented here we come face to face with the fact that James was indeed writing unto those who knew the truth and those who knew the gospel and the law of the living God which was contained within it. The more we read the words which are found in these verses the more we encounter two of the greatest dangers and threats facing most churches which are present among us in our culture and society today. Oh we would be incredible naïve and deceived to think and consider that the words which are presented here are only applicable to those in James’ generation and have absolutely no relevance to us within our ow generation.
If you take the time to read the words which are found in these passage of Scripture you will encounter and come face to face with the sin of partiality and favoritism within our hearts in the midst of the churches and congregations in which we worship. What’s more is that not only will you encounter the tremendous danger, temptation and sin of partiality and favoritism which can indeed be present among us within our churches and congregations but you will also find a secondary danger which can be closely tied together with and connected to that of partiality and judgment. It is in the second half of this chapter we find James going on to write concerning faith and works and emphatically declaring how faith without works is dead and does indeed abide alone. Oh the more you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more you will be brought face to face with the danger of partiality and favoritism which is in and of itself a form of judgment as well as a faith that is void of any demonstration and manifestation among us within our hearts and lives. You cannot read the words presented within this passage of Scripture and not encounter and come face to face with this tremendous and incredible truth surrounding faith without works as being dead and abiding alone—much like the Dead Sea which has no outlet can receive life which flows into it from the Jordan River but cannot produce life because it has no outlet. The Dead Sea has always only ever received waters from the Jordan River which begins at mount Hermon and flows through the land of Israel into the Sea of Galilee and ultimately ends at the Dead Sea. It is in the midst of the Dead Sea where we encounter the stark reality that there is and there can be absolutely no life sustained in the midst thereof because of its nature, composition and makeup.
The more I read the words which are found in the second chapter of the epistle written by James unto the twelve tribes of Israel which were scattered abroad the more I can’t help but encounter what is perhaps one of the most dangerous forms of judgment that can be present within the heart and mind of one who professes themselves to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. If you read and consider the words which our Lord spoke within the four gospels you will quickly encounter zero tolerance for judgment within the heart of one who wishes to be a disciple and follower of His. You cannot read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the danger(s) of entering into judgment toward and against another individual. It makes no difference whether you enter into judgment against a brother or sister, or against a publican, or against a Pharisee, or against a Roman centurion, or anyone else during those days. As you read the words which are found in the four gospels—specifically Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount—you will find Jesus inviting his disciples and followers into a place where they had absolutely no tolerance nor space for judgment within their hearts and minds. In all reality if you wish to be a disciple and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ you must completely free your heart from any and all form(s) of judgment toward and against others. Regardless of whether those around you are perceived to be your neighbor or your enemy there must needs be absolutely no room or space for judgment toward them.
What’s more is that the more I consider this the more I am brought face to face with the truth that there are essentially three forms of judgment which we pass against and cast upon those around us. There is of course cynicism where we are completely and entirely distrusting toward those whom we encounter on a regular basis. It is this form of judgment where we do not believe men has good intentions and that they are inherently evil and wicked in their intentions, motives, desires and actions. There is of course the judgment which is rooted and grounded in a certain pride and arrogance that is present within our hearts. This judgment feels as though we are somehow better than them and as a result we look upon them with disdain and disgust as did the Pharisee who looked upon the publican in the Temple while praying. The scribes, Pharisees, chief priests and the religious community continually entered into judgment against Jesus and His disciples as a form of legalism, religion and hypocrisy. This form of judgment is perhaps the one we are most familiar with and the one which is more often than not exercised in the midst of the sanctuary and house of God. There is perhaps no place where judgment of others is more real and more prevalent than in the house of the living God where men and women can and will judge others on the basis of religion, legalism and hypocrisy. With this being said it’s also important to note that there is another form of judgment that is found in the house of the living God—one that is more often than not more subtle and more sinister. It is this form of judgment which we find in the epistle written by James when he speaks of this dangerous form of judgment in the form of partiality and favoritism. It is this form of judgment which more often than not goes unnoticed and undetected unless revealed by the person and presence of the Holy Spirit within one’s heart and mind.
As I attempt to describe the words which are found in the second chapter of the epistle written by James I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which our Lord spoke unto his disciples and followers concerning judgment, judging others, and even accusing and condemning others. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind when reading the words of James the half-brother of Jesus that we must needs recognize the inherent danger and temptation of judgment—and not only judgment but even of having a judgmental and judging heart. Would it shock and surprise you to think about and consider the fact that you can have within you a judgmental spirit and a judgmental heart? I fully realize that this might come off as a shock to you, however, Scripture makes it perfectly and abundantly clear that we can indeed give ourselves over to a judgmental heart and a critical spirit. In all reality I would dare say that a critical spirit and a judgmental heart more often than not go hand in hand and work in tandem with each other. What’s more is I would dare say that where there is a critical spirit there is more often than not a judgmental heart that is intrinsically linked and connected to it. More often than not those who give themselves over to a judgmental heart have within themselves a critical spirit and often look for ways to judge, criticize, accuse and condemn others. What’s more is that at the very heart and center of this is an arrogance, a self-centeredness and pride that is present within our hearts and souls. Very rarely—if ever—will you find a judgmental heart and a critical spirit absent pride and arrogance within one’s heart and soul. It is with this in mind I invite you to turn and direct your attention—first and foremost to the words which our Lord spoke concerning judgment and judging others which are found in the four gospel narratives:
“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5).
“Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:37-38).
“And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? Shall they not both fall into the ditch? The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceives not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye. For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh” (Luke 3:39-45).
It is quite clear when reading the words which are found in these passages of Scripture that Jesus sought to deliver those who would walk with and follow Him from this critical spirit and judgmental heart. Throughout the time Jesus would walk among us as the Word made flesh manifested unto the world He would continually be criticized, accused and judged by the religious community of His day. You cannot read the four gospel narratives and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding Jesus’ warnings unto His disciples and followers concerning the need to deliver them from judging others. Within and throughout the public ministry of the Lord Jesus He sought to warn His disciples and followers from becoming victim and falling prey to the trap and snare of judgment which both fosters and fuels division among us—not only within our nation but also within the church as well. Jesus wanted to teach His disciples and followers the dangers of judgment and judging others while reminding them that whatever measure they judge others that same measure will be meted out against them. Jesus made it perfectly and abundantly clear that His disciples and followers were not to judge lest they themselves be judged. What’s more is that the Lord Jesus Christ deliberately and intentionally set forth this concept of judgment when teaching and speaking of the kingdom of heaven for there is absolutely no room or space for it in God’s economy and within the kingdom. It is no coincidence the Lord Jesus emphatically and boldly taught His disciples and followers to guard themselves from judgment for He knew and understood that at the very core of that judgment was hypocrisy, pride, arrogance and so much more. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the eighteenth and twenty-third chapters of the new Testament gospel narrative written by Matthew concerning the scribes and Pharisees as well as our treatment of others in the kingdom of heaven:
“At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! For it must needs be the offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire” (Matthew 18:1-9).
“Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:10-14).
“Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go, and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: But if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:15-20).
“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22).
“Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matthew 23:1-15).
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchures, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchures of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Matthew 23:23-33).
It is absolutely necessary we recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for what we find within them bring us face to face with the manifestation of judgment within the hearts of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus made it very clear that the scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat and from that place they not only place heavy religious burdens upon men through legalism, hypocrisy and religion. What’s more is that it would be from those seats of Moses—those self-imposed seats of power and authority they thought they possessed—they would serve as religious task-masters that cruelly oppressed the people of God. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that judgment—and not merely judgment—is a form of oppression which is indeed placed upon another as well as a prison which we allow ourselves to be ensnared and captivated in. We must needs recognize this particular truth for when we read the words found in the twenty-third chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find a religious system in place during those days a system that was similar to the taskmasters whom Pharaoh appointed over the children of Israel in the land of Egypt. In an attempt to keep them suppressed and oppressed within the land Pharaoh would appoint cruel taskmasters who would brutally and violently rule over them with iron fists and with whips. For more than four centuries the children of Israel would themselves be subjected to this cruel and oppressive bondage and would be forced to build the chief cities of Egypt for Pharaoh king of Egypt. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for while the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees did not use the backs of the people to build their own empires and kingdoms they nonetheless cruelly oppressed them with heavy burdens which they themselves could neither lift nor had any interest in lifting.
With this being said I am absolutely convinced that when we allow ourselves to step into that role and place of judging others we are not only building prisons for ourselves within our hearts and minds but we are also serving as taskmasters and oppressors of others. You cannot convinced me that if we allow ourselves to be engaged in judgment of others that we are not oppressing them just as the taskmasters oppressed the children of Israel in the land of Egypt. What’s more is that with this being said we are setting ourselves up to oppress them and more often than not they aren’t ever even aware of it. Would it shock and surprise you to know that you can silently and quietly pass judgment against and upon another without them being the wiser? There is not a doubt in my mind that when we think about and consider this reality and concept of judgment against others we are not only setting ourselves up in the seat of Moses but we are also setting ourselves up as Pharaoh and his taskmasters. It’s actually quite interesting to consider the fact that when we set ourselves up in the place where we judge others—not only do we set ourselves up in the seat of Moses who would be used of God to deliver the children of Israel from their slavery and bondage but we also set ourselves up as those who oppressed them in the midst of the land of Egypt. There is a great need for us to recognize and understand that our judgment against and upon others sets us up in the place where we are not only the oppressor and aggressor but also where we are the warden of the prison. Not only this but the prison that we build is a self-imposed prison upon ourselves as the true prisoner is never the one we allow ourselves to judge but us ourselves.
The more I sit here and think about this reality of judgment against and upon others the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth that judgment of others—and not merely judgment but also criticism, accusation and condemnation—actually gives those we are judging power and authority over us. We would like to think that it is we ourselves who are in authority and power over those we judge and yet the truth of the matter is that when we do so within our hearts and minds we actually give them power over us. The more the scribes and the Pharisees sought to judge, accuse and condemn the Lord Jesus the more authority and power they gave Him. Pause for a moment and consider the fact that when you read of the judgment, the accusation, the condemnation and the criticism of the scribes and Pharisees during Jesus’ day you are actually reading of them giving Him more authority and power than they even realized. They thought that it was themselves who held the power and authority when they sought to pass judgment and cast criticism against Jesus and His disciples and yet what they were actually doing was emboldening Jesus all the more and giving Him authority among them in their midst. It’s actually quite remarkable and astounding to think about and consider this particular truth and how the more the scribes and Pharisees sought to accuse, condemn and judge the Lord Jesus Christ the more they actually gave Him authority over and among them in their midst. This was precisely what happened with the task masters which Pharaoh appointed to oppress the children of Israel in the land of Egypt. The more these task masters oppressed the children of Israel the more they grew and exceedingly multiplied.
We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular truth and how absolutely incredible it is for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful reality of how debilitating and crippling judging others actually is. As if it weren’t enough that judgment, accusation and criticism is incredibly dangerous within the heart and soul of an individual it is also a self-imposed prison that we place ourselves in. Not only this but when we judge others we allow them to live rent free within our minds thus yielding valuable real estate to those who don’t even know they are occupying that space. I am absolutely convinced this is precisely why the Lord Jesus seemed to directly link judgment with forgiveness for one of—if not the greatest remedies to judgment is indeed forgiveness. What’s more is when you consider the words and language of the Lord Jesus Christ you will find offense and judgment being intrinsically linked and connected to each other. Oh there is not a doubt in my mind that when we think and speak about judgment we must also of necessity speak of offense within our hearts and souls. What’s more is that not only do we speak of offense within our hearts and souls but we also speak of an inability and perhaps even an unwillingness to forgive others. The scribes and the Pharisees spent a considerable amount of time accusing and looking for means to accuse Jesus and thus allowed Him to have unparalleled authority among them in their midst—the very thing they were attempting to prevent.
When we read the words which are found in the second chapter of the epistle written by James we encounter an entirely different form of judgment—one that is not rooted and steeped in religion, hypocrisy and legalism but one that is centered upon pride and arrogance. As you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find judgment taking on an entirely different form among the saints and the brethren—namely in their having the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ with respect of persons. Furthermore James sought to explain what this looked like be describing one who came unto them with a gold ring and in goodly apparel and one who came unto them in poor and vile raiment. James would express and speak of them having respect unto the one who wore the gay clothing and offered them a good and proper place among them in their midst while they would declare unto the poor man to stand off in a distant place or sit there among them at their footstool. This would immediately prompt James to go on to declare unto them how they had become partial in themselves and are become judges of evil thoughts. Oh please don’t miss and lose sight of the words which are found here in this passage of Scripture for what we find here is James actually using the word “judge”—and not only using the word “judge” but also speaking of their being judges of evil thoughts. It is absolutely necessary we recognize and understand this for one of the most sinister means of judging others—one that is perhaps more subtil than anything among us in our midst is when we are partial within our hearts, our minds and our souls toward another.
James took the time to write unto the twelve tribes which were scattered and spoke unto them concerning their demonstrating favoritism and partiality among themselves in their midst as they drew a dividing line in their midst. If you take the time to read the words which are found in these verses you will find that this form of judgment actually creates a schism and division among them in the midst of the sanctuary and house of God. In a place where there should be absolutely no division these brethren actually allowed such to be manifested among them in their midst. This is something we need to acknowledge and understand within our hearts and lives for when we think about favoritism and partiality we are actually talking about dividing the house of the living God into different classes. What’s more is that this actually opens the door for us to engage ourselves in the development of a caste system within the church and body of Christ—one that separates and divides men and women which should be brethren. As if this weren’t evil enough allowing ourselves to be given over to partiality and favoritism prevents us from being able to actively commit ourselves to the royal law of the Lord which is loving our neighbor as ourselves without any respect of persons. In fact it is when you come to the eighth verse of this chapter you will find the author of this epistle declaring unto them that if they fulfil the royal law according to the scripture—“Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”—they do well. Conversely, however, if they have respect unto persons they commit sin and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
Stop and truly take the time to consider the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for within it we are brought face to face with the tremendous truth that having favoritism and respect to certain persons while despising others is sin. Not only this but those who allow themselves to have respect unto persons effectively prevent and prohibit themselves from fulfilling the royal law of love. James the half-brother of the Lord Jesus made it very clear when writing this particular epistle that those who have respect unto persons and those who allow themselves to be given unto favoritism are those who are not only judges and judges of evil thoughts but also those who allow division and schism to be present in the midst of the church. It is this particular truth and reality concerning division and schism in the church we must needs recognize and understand for when we give ourselves to judging others through favoritism and partiality we are separating those who should have been united. In all reality giving ourselves over to favoritism goes against the very thing the Holy Spirit came to establish on the day of Pentecost—namely, the unity and community of the body. You cannot read the narrative of the early church and not see how the Holy Spirit came to not only establish the body of the Lord Jesus Christ but also to establish it in unity. This is precisely what the apostle Paul wrote about in the twelfth chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints as well as the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome. Not only this but this is what Luke presented unto his readers in the second and fourth chapters of the book of Acts and what the apostle Paul also wrote about in the second chapter of the epistle written unto the Philippians.
It is with all of this in mind I invite you to consider the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for they bring us face to face with the awesome and incredible truth that there is a great need for unity, community and fellowship within the body of Christ. When we allow ourselves to have respect unto persons and give ourselves to favoritism instead of fellowship and partiality instead of peace we allow ourselves to be divided and separated from others. Not only this but we introduce division into the body of Christ and create a system of classes within the body of Christ which He never intended on creating. The body of Christ was never meant to be divided across the same lines which we have in our culture and society—racial lines, gender lines, political lines, wealth lines, and the like. If you have been in this country for any amount of time—particularly and especially over the past two years—you will notice just how divided we are. What’s more is that we are indeed divided because of this caste system that is present among us as our nation is divided across countless different lines. Consider now the following words which are found in the New Testament beginning with the second chapter of the New Testament book of Acts:
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:42-47).
“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:32-37).
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our minister: or he that teacheth, on teaching: or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:1-8).
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all” (1 Corinthians 12:1-6).
“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many” (1 Corinthians 12:12-14).
The more I read the words which are found in the second chapter of the epistle written unto James the more I am becoming increasingly convinced that having respect unto persons and faith without works being dead are intrinsically linked and connected. If you think about it—if we are those who allow ourselves to have respect unto persons there can and there will be times when we allow our faith to be absent works in the midst of the body of Christ and even in the midst of our culture and society. If you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find James beginning and opening by writing and speaking of having the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ with respect of persons and speaking unto them—not only of favoritism but also of partiality within their hearts and souls. This would be evidenced and manifested through their having a system within their hearts and minds that allowed them to not only think of themselves more highly than they ought but also to think less of others than they should. THINKING MORE HIGHLY OF ONESELF AND THINKING LESS OF ANOTHER! Perhaps the single greatest truth that is found within these passage of Scripture is that when we have respect unto persons and when we commit ourselves to showing partiality and favoritism to others we are not only lessening those who are present among us but we are also elevating ourselves above those who are present in our midst.
I read the words found in this passage of Scripture and I can’t help but be brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth that is found at the very heart of this epistle for this process of having respect unto persons and showing partiality and favoritism is an unhealthy and unholy elevation of ourselves in the midst of the body of Christ and an unholy and unhealthy lessening of those who are present among us in our midst. If you think about it you cannot have respect unto persons without elevating yourself to a place you were never intended or meant to be. Not only this but if you have respect unto persons and give yourself to favoritism and partiality you are lessening and diminishing the worth and value of others. In all reality this is precisely what James is writing in this epistle for what we find here is these brethren diminishing the worth and value of those whom they determined were somehow not worthy. In all reality there is a tremendous and inherent danger in having respect unto persons for in order to do so we not only prevent ourselves from being able to move and operate in the royal law of love but we also prevent ourselves from allowing true unity, community and fellowship among us. Oh there is a tremendous and inherent danger that is found among us when we have respect unto persons for by doing so we are effectively working against both the law of the Lord Jesus as well as working against the work of the Spirit. WORKING AGAINST THE LAW OF LOVE AND AGAINST THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT!
There is not a doubt in my mind when reading these words that those who have respect unto persons are those who limit and prevent themselves from being able to truly walk in the unity, community and fellowship of the Holy Spirit—that which He came to establish in the midst of the church and that which the Lord Jesus sought to purchase with and by His blood. Those who allow themselves to have respect unto persons are such who feel they are qualified to pick and choose who they show and demonstrate their faith to. This is something we have a great need to recognize within our own hearts and lives for we dare not and must not be those who show partiality and favoritism unto those among us in our midst. You will notice in the second chapter of this epistle James speaks of a brother or sister being naked and destitute of daily food and instead of feeding and clothing them they instead say, “Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled” while not giving unto them those things which are needful for the body. James the half-brother of the Lord Jesus strongly warned the saints and brethren concerning their allowing themselves to be those who would dare allow such division and schism in the midst of the sanctuary and house of God. Oh there is a great need for us to recognize and pay attention to this reality within our hearts and lives as the saints and people of God for we effectively destroy the community and fellowship of the Holy Spirit when we have respect unto persons among us in our midst.
As I bring this writing to a close it is absolutely imperative we acknowledge the words which James wrote in this passage of Scripture for not only does he speak of showing favoritism in the midst of the sanctuary but he also speaks of a faith without works and being dead. What we must needs understand is that when we allow ourselves to have respect unto persons we foster division in the house of God as we elevate ourselves above that which we were ever designed or intended to be. What’s more is that having respect unto persons diminishes the worth and value of others and places them in a place that is less than that which the living and eternal God created them. Oh please pay close attention to this for allowing ourselves to be given over to this caste system within the house of the living God also places us in the position where we choose who receives love, who is part of the community and fellowship, who receives ministry, and who receives the love we were commanded to freely give unto everyone. There is a great need to consider the words which James the half brother of the Lord Jesus wrote in this passage of Scripture for within it we are brought face to face with the wonderful truth that we are entirely and altogether unable to pick and choose who we love and who we show compassion unto. We set ourselves up as judges of evil thoughts when we have respect unto persons and we think of ourselves more highly than we ought. Oh dear brother, oh dear sister please note the tremendous and inherent danger that is found within these passages of Scripture and how there is a great need within our midst to be those who truly walk in the community and unity and fellowship of the Holy Spirit in the house of the living God.
Perhaps one of the greatest questions we must needs ask ourselves when considering the words which are found in this passage of Scripture is whether or not there is indeed demonstration and manifestation of our faith in the midst of the earth. Oh we can make all the boasts and all the professions and declarations of faith being present within our hearts and souls and yet if there are no works directly linked and associated to that faith it is not only dead but it abides alone. James was very clear to demonstrate—both through Abraham and Rahab—that faith needs demonstration just as much as it needs declaration. We dare not and must not think and believe for a single moment that faith with declaration alone is enough and that faith without demonstration is not also needed. We must needs be those who commit ourselves to the development of faith within our hearts and lives knowing that faith must contain both substance and demonstration. Oh that we would be those who truly recognize that we have been called to fulfill the royal law of love toward our neighbours—and not only fulfill the royal law of love but also walk in faith that allows us to do good unto all men regardless of race, status, caste, gender, class and the like. Oh that we would be those men and women who truly walk as Jesus walked in the midst of the earth and would be those who commit ourselves to loving our neighbor as ourselves and those who do not make any attempt to divide love across gender, political, party, racial, and other lines we have created among us within our culture and society.
If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture it’s how faith and love can be divided within the hearts and lives of the saints of God. As you read the words found within this passage you will be brought face to face with the fact that faith can indeed be divided within ourselves when we not only elevate ourselves to an unholy and unhealthy place of stature and status but also when we decrease and diminish those who present all around us. It is when we allow ourselves to be elevated within our hearts and minds that we are then able to successfully diminish those whom we deem to be less than or beneath us. If we allow ourselves to view others as beneath us—hence the words and language found in this passage—we then open ourselves to showing favoritism and partiality to those who are present among us in our midst. What makes this all the more intriguing when you read the words contained therein is when you see the poor told to “stand over there” thus making them an outsider or “sit down here” thus treating them as though they are beneath us. What we need to pay close attention to in this passage of Scripture is whether or not we are those who not only allow our hearts to be divided but also allow faith and love to be divided within us. If we entreat others as though they are outsiders and/or beneath us then we are not only demonstrating partiality and favoritism within our hearts but we are also demonstrating that we are indeed agents of pride, agents of arrogance and agents of division. We dare not and must not be those who treat others as though they need to “stand over there” or as though they need to “sit down here” and thus demonstrate that the royal law of love is not abiding within our hearts and souls. What’s more is that there is absolutely no room or place for this in the house of the living God nor within the hearts and lives of those who profess to be the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. We must needs be those who truly walk by faith and not by sight—particularly when it comes to those in our midst—for if we allow ourselves to walk by faith we can potentially open ourselves up to a faith that lacks any type of demonstration and manifestation.
I bring this writing to a close by writing and speaking of our walking by faith and not by sight and how this particular truth directly applies to our relationships in this world. There are countless men and women who can and ultimately do regard others according to the flesh rather than by sight. It is when we allow ourselves to regard others according to the flesh that we completely abandon and neglect walking by faith and thus treat others solely based on sight. We as the saints of God and those who profess to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ must needs be those who deliberately and intentionally walk by faith rather than sight for sight more often than not can lead our hearts astray. It is when we open ourselves and allow ourselves to walk by sight rather than faith we view others through the lens of what we see in the natural and what we perceive with our own physical eyes. Not only this but this in turn leads down an even more dangerous slope as we treat others solely based on what we see with our eyes and how they makes us feel within our hearts and think within our minds. When we read the words found in this passage it is not only necessary that we deliberately and intentionally chose to walk by faith and not by sight but also that we recognize that our faith demands action, demonstration and manifestation. We must not be a people who allow ourselves to be governed by our sight for more often than not our sight can lead us astray and can cause us to get lost and stuck in our own minds. We must needs be a people who allow both our love and our faith to be united and that we are truly those who fulfil the royal law of love as we love our neighbors as ourselves, as we love our enemies, and as we refuse to allow ourselves to be divided and treat others as outcasts and/or as though they are beneath us. Oh that we would be a people who truly walk by faith and not by sight and that we love our neighbor as ourselves the same way Jesus loved the church and laid down His life for her.