“My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.”
The word “faith” has a definite article, “the faith.” The Greek word for faith is “pistis,” and in this verserefers to doctrine accumulated in the soul over a period of time resulting in an edification complex. You cannot hold to the faith [doctrine] that is in your soul and at the same time have favoritism (partiality). If you show favoritism you are not practicing the doctrine (the faith) that resides in your soul.
“For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in the good place and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool, have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil motives?”
“For” introduces an amplification of the prohibition of verse one. The previous verse indicates the biblical attitude toward favoritism. God is opposed to it in every way because it comes through negative volition toward doctrine, it comes from the accumulation of scar tissue, it comes from emotional revolt, which is a function of reversionism. So obviously this is an anti-biblical function. What follows “for” is now going to amplify this prohibition by using an illustration.
Comes into your assembly means to enter into a local church. We have two people who are going to enter and an usher who is helping these two people. The usher is suffering from reversionism. First to enter is a person wearing a gold ring and fine clothes. It was customary in the ancient world to wear a lot of rings on your fingers if you were a person of influence and affluence. Often a person wore as many rings as they could get on their hands and it was quite obvious that if a man’s fingers were covered with gold rings he was a very wealthy person and he was advertising it. You could tell from the way he was dressed and the rings on his fingers that he was a very wealthy and very influential man.
Next to enter is the poor beggar dressed in filthy garments. He apparently had no gold rings to adorn his fingers or fine clothing for his body, but he had come into the same congregation where the Word of God was being taught. So the problem we encounter in these verses is not with the rich man or the poor man, but the usher who is out of fellowship and in a state of reversionism. Standing in the back and then being asked to sit next to a footstool (probably on the floor) is an act of partiality.
Making distinctions between these two persons is making a distinction in your mind. This is often used as an idiom for the thinking in your soul. The reversionistic usher was guilty of an awful type of judging. The Greek word for judges is “krites,” from which we get our English word critic. The evil motives are obviously attempting to gain the favor of someone who is wealthy and influential.
“Listen, my beloved brethren; did not God chose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?”
Listen means to concentrate. James’ reminds his readers by way of illustration that God chose to display His power and glory through those who have no power or glory of their own. This does not mean that a wealthy or powerful person cannot glorify God. Anyone can glorify God by means of accumulated Bible doctrine and application of that doctrine. However, James points out that God uses those who are not distracted by their wealth and power, which is typically those who have little materially speaking to distract them. True wealth for the believer comes by means of Bible doctrine. These believers who accumulate doctrine are not wealthy not only now, but they are heirs of the kingdom of God which will come in the future. The promise of a future kingdom where we rule and reign with Jesus Christ is promised to those who love God.
“But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?”
Dishonored means to debase, to degrade, or to abuse. The rich does not refer to all people who have wealth but to a specific type of rich man who abuses his authority — being tyrannical, despotic, arrogant, extortionist, dishonoring the poor by destroying their rights. Wealth has both authority and responsibility, not to oppress the poor but to protect the poor in the sense of giving them their rights, their freedom, their privacy, as members of the human race under the laws of establishment. Furthermore, as believers with wealth they are to provide for the helpless poor so that they continue to live and have freedom and rights and privacy.
The short-sighted usher is in reversionism lacks the divine viewpoint of doctrine and the resultant spiritual common sense. This common sense and observation of life should remind the short-sighted usher that by showing partiality to the rich man he is “digging his own grave.” The rich man who has oppressed him in the past will continue to do so and in effect the usher, through this reversionistic process, has made a fool of himself. He has catered to the wealthy. Why would the usher cater to the rich man? He is hoping to gain some attention or some approbation by contact with the rich or with the influential, with those who are considered humanly successful. As a believer this usher demonstrates his reversionism.
The rich who oppresses you and drag you into court means that the rich use the law which is designed to protect the rights of an individual to oppress the poor. Wealth is never the means to happiness or blessing where it is used for oppression or tyranny. Application of Bible doctrine could have corrected the human viewpoint of the usher who demonstrated partiality in reversionism.
“Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?”
Blaspheme means to malign. The fair name is a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. Believers call themselves Christians. They identify themselves as followers of Jesus Christ by using the word Christian, which means “like Christ.” When a believer shows partiality he maligns the name by which he identifies himself – Christian.
“If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.”
Fulfilling is the Greek word “teleo,” which means to conclude an operation. The something here is described as the royal law of loving your neighbor as yourself. This is a first class condition and James assumes that they will.
The royal law is first expressed in Leviticus 19:18. It is found not only in our passage where it is quoted but it is also quoted in Matthew 19:19; 22:39-40; 1 John 3:23; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 2:17; 1 John 3:11; 4:7. How it is quoted in each one of these passages indicates how it is to be used. One thing we can learn is that the royal law is for believers only. The Ten Commandments are for the human race and are part of the laws of divine establishment. The royal law is a spiritual law. The whole concept of the royal law as far as the Church Age believer is concerned is found in Romans 8:1-16 where the filling of the Holy Spirit fulfills the royal law.
What is the royal law? First of all it is a positive law, not a negative, and it is now quoted correctly, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” This law is unique. It is quoted in the New Testament to be a part of the Christian way of life fulfilled by the filling of the Spirit, but since believers in Leviticus 19 were not filled with the Spirit obviously it had another meaning there. So let’s start with “Thou shalt love.” The Greek verb for love is “agapao.”“Agapao” is a thinking verb, it means to think, not to act. It means to have a relaxed mental attitude in your thinking toward other people (impersonal love). It means freedom from mental attitude sins such as envy, jealousy, bitterness, implacability, hatred, and so on. Once again, this verb it a thinking verb, it has nothing to do with any overt expression of love.
The next phrase is your neighbor, which is a Greek adverb “plesion,” which doesn’t really mean neighbor in the sense that we use it. Neighbor is a noun; “plesion”in Greek is an adverb, and it means near or nearby — “Thou shalt love the nearby ones.” It should be more correctly translated “Thou shalt love those in your periphery [in your circumstances].” As yourself means that believers are to have relaxed mental attitudes toward themselves before they have relaxed mental attitudes toward others. This is the principle of privacy and freedom; “live and let live.”
“But if you show partiality, you committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”
The Greek word for committing is “ergazomai” which means to be occupied. The Greek word for sin is “hamartia” and refers to the principle or the cause of sin. It often refers to the sin nature. Here it means you are functioning under the control of the sin nature. The Greek word for convicted is “elencho,” which means to be convicted. The law refers to the royal law. Transgressors are those who violate the law. As we noted, the royal law is not the Law of Moses or the governmental law. The royal law is the law of Christ. And James was saying that showing partiality is a violation of the law of Christ.