James 2:1-13 A Case of Bad Judgement - Breaking the Law of Liberty
"Democracy is the worst possible form of government, except for all the rest" - Winston Churchill
Ditto our legal system - no doubt many problems, but who would want to be in the dock under a dictatorship?
We prize what we have, and are disgusted when police, lawyer or, even worse, a judge, turn out to be crooked!
Here James, God's messenger, shows us "a Case of Bad Judgement" - an ugly sight.
James 1:22-25 (ESV) But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.  For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.  But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
God gives the best to believers in Jesus - forgiveness, along with joy, wisdom, happiness, blessedness, and every good gift. But James knows the danger of being just hearers of the good news, and not doers God's perfect law of liberty. He knows it is vital genuine faith grows real fruit in their lives, and our lives (for this is a word just as much to us, 2000 years later).
Explaining the Law
James says a lot about the law - 15 times in these verses he uses judge, law, court and related words.
What is law? Principle of action - 2 meanings - enforced "must", as law of gravity "if this rope breaks I must fall" - voluntary "ought to", as "I ought to stop for a rest"
"Ought I jump? - Too late! I must fall..."
...even if I am Superman!
- Train and track law - "must" follow the tracks (trains have no steering wheel!). This is God's law for all creation; non-life, animals (and only to men as far as falling goes!)
- car and road law - I "ought to" stay on the road and on the left. This type of God's law is only for men, as thinking, deciding creatures. This is always what Bible means by "law". [might wish it were "must" law - but just robots, and no way for true love & communication. God says it is worth the pain!]
- "ceremonial" law was like this - many things the Jews "ought to" do; and Rabbis added hundreds more.
- "moral" law is like this - this is the "royal law" v8 - the King's law, because of the King's nature, Romans 7:12 (ESV) "the law is holy and righteous and good." Summed up in Jesus' words Matthew 22:37-39 (ESV) And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the great and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.
- law of slavery if we use it to earn God's forgiveness (never enough good works - impossible!). Gal. 5:1 "a yoke of slavery" - burdened slavery; hard labour.
- law of liberty v12 (&1:25) not if we, in faith, use it to please God in loving service. Gal. 5:1 Gal 5:1 (ESV) "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery."
- "What's the difference?"
- not the demands of the law - love God, love men, be true, be honest, be pure, etc.
- change of heart Isaiah 51:7 (ESV) "the people in whose heart is my law;" Hebrews 8:10 (ESV) For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Hebrews 10:16 (ESV) "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,"
- when the "want to" & the "ought to" (the Ws and the Os) line up, in harmony, then law it freedom.
- Adam & Eve in Gen 2 - want to and ought to in full & unconscious harmony
- Adam & Eve from Gen. 3 - want to & ought to & do do in very conscious discord! And so down to today. Oughts are grudging, even when done
- But the believer in Jesus is changed - Ws & Os becoming in in harmony again, (though not complete). Romans 8:2 (ESV) For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
- question of who is in the driver's seat? Old nature, or new nature in Christ (for Christian old is in the passenger seat - grabs at the wheel(tempts, demands), smears windscreen (confuses the understanding of God's truth), but not in the driver's seat!)
- Ruth B's "How Many Times" - last verse "I'll keep trying my best?."
- Law of bondage says "what am I compelled to do (for fear of punishment)?
- Law of liberty says "what am I now freed to do (out of love to God & men)"
- Thank God - at the last He will get rid of the passenger - 1 John 3:2 (ESV) Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we will be like him, because we shall see him as he is. Then there will be conscious, delighted harmony of desire, duty & deeds
Breaking the Law
V1 - don't show favouritism - the rule
V2-4 the scene & the test - the star & the down-and-out. That's good - both are welcome
- What's not good - dazzled by the star and NOT distressed by poverty. Not like our Lord Jesus - He was plain with the rich when needed, and fed the poor (and touched lepers, & befriended outcasts). He was poor Himself, and had nowhere to rest His head.
- Should give extra welcome to the disadvantaged.
- If you behave like this you ARE playing favourites. Truly a case of bad judgement
- Judging by appearances - looking only at the outside (but God sees the heart)
- Crooked motives - desire for name-dropping status, reflected glory, money. Hypocrite!
- You are a judge with evil thoughts. God says this is a great evil.. Not a little thing. He hates it.
James tells us why it is real evil
- God sees things differently (He sees the heart of each man)
V5 He generally chooses this world's poor v5 to inherit real riches (which you should long and struggle for - not this world's riches). This favouritism insults the poor - God honours them
- V6 Rich are rarely friends to Jesus' people. They are the ones who generally use and abuse others to keep/get money and power
- V7 Rich are often those who speak badly of Jesus the poor Man (despite show of religion). Wealthy and powerful killed Him.
V8 God's law for us towards others summed up "Love your neighbour as yourself" from Matt. 22:39. Royal law, for expresses His Kingly nature (a great king ever gives himself for his people)
V9 Favouritism breaks this law - do it and you are a law-breaker.
- V10- 11 - like chain (every link counts), not rope (1 broken strand has little effect)
- An extreme example to make the point
- Murder and wife/husband stealing
- Don't steal? - but greedy
- Don't lie? - but arrogant
- Don't hurt others, but speak badly of them (eg, racism)
Back to law of liberty
- V12 - Guiding principle
- seeing others as Christ sees them (I am free to do that now)
- doing for others as Christ did for them. Matthew 25:40 (ESV) And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' [ 31-46]
- v13 - law of liberty is the way of mercy.
- Matthew 5:7 (ESV) "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
- Law of bondage is the way of judgement - v13
- Mercy triumphs (rejoices) over judgement - that is God's way (what Christ Jesus came to do)
- Psalm 85:10 (KJV) Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
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Last updated: 11 Aug 2021
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