Our next set of verses would seem at first to depart from what we talked about last time, treating everyone the same. However, as we will find, James is actually continuing the same thought found in the first 9 verses.
This is going to sound fragmented as we go along. Please allow me time to examine each part and then we will assemble them.
This next section can be easily misunderstood. We want to carefully look at what James is addressing. It starts, v.10, by saying if you commit one sin you are guilty of the whole law. Okay, we are done, we must live perfect. Perhaps we need to dig into this deeper and add the verses connected to it. Why did James say this? Verse 11 sounds just like verse 10. Before we go on it is clear that God’s word is not like a buffet where you pick out what you want and leave the rest. God expects us to honor His word by looking for the whole truth. So far in verses 10-11 we are to understand that “pretty good” or “almost” is not acceptable to God. God cannot accept one single sin. This is a true statement but it is an incomplete thought, context is essential.
Practice What You Preach
Now when we get to verse 12 the focus improves on what James wants us to understand; do what you say, live what you preach. Be real! The verse ends with the law of liberty. So what is James saying in this verse? We now have the means, we are now at liberty, through Christ, to say no to sin and keep the whole law. Knowing God’s word is not enough; we must also put God’s word into action. We are still not done, there is more.
The thought is expanded further in verse 13 when we are told that God will judge us based upon how we have judged others. (The next time someone rubs you the wrong way think about this… If I show mercy to them God will show mercy to me. However if I go off the handle showing no mercy then God will not be gracious to me when I do wrong.) Now we need to go back and tie in the first part of this chapter together with this section to make a complete reading of the text. [James said in the first part not to favor one over another, if we do so we sin. Sin in turn is breaking the law which God says if you break one law you are guilty of all. Finally for those who continue to show favoritism, judging one to be better than another, God will judge them the same way.] This is a far cry from what a verse out of this chapter is usually used for. It is dangerous to take one verse out of context and draw conclusions from it. In this case there is more than one thought in this chapter. This thought covers verses 1-13. Sometimes we need to read several chapters in order to understand exactly what the writer is trying to say to us. If we look at only verses 10 & 11 we might draw the conclusion that God demands perfection and one mistake will send us to hell. If we look only at verse 12 we might decide that we have the right to decide for ourselves what we can and cannot do as Christians. We must read all the verses associated with the writer’s thought. God detests those who favor one over another, it is just as sinful as murder and God will deal harshly with those who show favoritism.
The latter part of verse 13 says “mercy rejoiceth against judgment”. I often hear “I just want what’s fair”. We cannot say that to God. We do not deserve mercy but God offers it freely anyway. If we accept that mercy God expects us to pass it on.
Don’t play favorites
Practice what you preach
Share the mercy God has shown you