James echoes Proverbs 28: 21 which says: to show partiality is not good. Today he reminds his hearers that God is interested in how we treat people and that we are to make a point of treating everyone the same whatever their social standing. In James’ day when social distinctions were so much more obvious and important than in our own, this teaching was radical indeed. ‘James wrote to a very partial age, filled with prejudice and hatred based on class, ethnicity, nationality, and religious background. In the ancient world people were routinely and permanently categorized because they were Jew or Gentile, slave or free, rich or poor, Greek or barbarian, or whatever.’ Jesus came to break down these barriers and make one new race. He calls us to treat all people equally.
We are to be promoters of mercy, not judges.
Mercy is ‘the disposition to be compassionate or forbearing’.
God has called us to be agents of mercy in this unforgiving, broken world. Where we stand in judgment of people, criticizing their actions or being suspicious of their motives, mercy and healing can’t flow through us. The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. But mercy and compassion do. When we release mercy, we enable God to move because we act in alignment with His Spirit.
Finally in this chapter James, ever practical, admonishes his hearers to be busy about the business of the kingdom. Faith and deeds – we must walk the walk as well as talk the talk. We are to have lives that demonstrate the gospel. There should be a change in our lives because of the good news we have received. The evidence of this new life will be acts of righteousness and goodness. It’s the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Faith and works go hand in hand.
So today – let’s treat people with equality – and be as patient and gracious to the person that serves our coffee as we are to our boss who’s doing our performance review. And let’s see how we can do the works of the kingdom in whatever situation we find ourselves today, believing God will work through them.
Prayer: Thank you Father that you are calling me to put my faith in action today and do something that will reflect the fact that I’m a believer in you. Help me too to treat everyone I meet today with a gracious open-handedness that will point to you, Amen.