(Vs. 1.) In the first verses of this chapter James rebukes a respect of persons on account of outward circumstances and material advantage! In the body of Christ there are no rich and poor, important and unimportant, great and small, black and white, but Christ is all (Col. 3:10, 11; 1 Cor. 12:12, 13). We are to show no partiality, favoritism or preference because of material or physical differences between believers!
Brethren, children of the same Father and family ought never to have, hold and profess the faith of Christ in such a manner as to cater to the rich and powerful and show contempt for the poor and weak!
(Vs. 2-4.) An illustration. Suppose two men come into our assembly. One, judging by his gold rings and fine clothes, is a very wealthy and influential man. The other, judging by his shabby clothes, is a very poor and ignorant man. If we are impressed and awed by the presence of the wealthy man and say to him, "Here is a choice seat. We are glad to have you. Welcome to our assembly," and with some contempt and indignation, say to the poor, "Sit in the back, or on the floor," we are discriminating, judging and making a distinction between them not based on faith, godliness or a spiritual relationship with Christ, but on material advantage! Our motive is wrong. Our thoughts are evil. We do not demonstrate the love of Christ (Acts 10:34, 35; Ps. 40:4).
The people of God are not to enlist the aid of the world"s famous, wealthy and important to further the cause of Christ. In the church fellowship we are to despise any inclination within us to honour and cater for the flesh! (Ps. 118:6-9.) We are to cultivate a spirit of love and oneness which highly regards all believers, rich or poor, for Christ"s sake! (1 Tim. 5:21.)
(Vs. 5.) "Listen to this, my beloved brethren. Hath not our Lord chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world?" They are not poor at all, for they are rich in faith and grace. Has not God chosen those who have nothing in this world and are looked upon as being nothing? In reality they are somebody, for they are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ in the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 1:26-29). The Lord"s choice of his people is not based upon the merit, intelligence, morals or wealth of men, but is according to his mercy and grace.
(Vs. 6, 7.) When we show respect to men because of material or physical difference, when we distinguish between men on this basis, we not only humiliate, dishonour and show contempt for the poor, but also for our Lord! We are as much as saying that he did a wrong thing in choosing his elect without regard to natural advantage. Is it not the worldly rich and powerful who are usually idled with pride and arrogance and who really hold us in contempt? Is it not usually the rich and powerful who oppress the church and hate the gospel of free grace for sinners? Is it not usually the rich and famous who blaspheme the name of the Lord Jesus and worship not before his throne? It is true that our Lord has called and conquered some of the world"s mighty and noble, but not many! Material wealth, fame and popularity generally beget more pride, self-righteousness and contempt for grace!
(Vs. 8.) On the other hand, "if you really fulfil the royal law" (so called because it is the law of the King of kings) "you do well!" This royal law says, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matt. 22:34-40, Gal. 5:13,14; 6:2). Every person is my neighbour and is to be an object of my love and compassion, especially those of the household of faith (Gal. 6:10).
(Vs. 9.) If we show partiality, favoritism and honour to one person above another because of position, power or wealth, we commit sin, and we are rebuked and convicted by the law of our Lord as transgressors. If motive in such behaviour is considered, the sin is evident: for we are doubting the care of our Lord and looking to the arm of fleshly influence and help. If understanding in such behaviour is considered, the sin is evident: for our judgement of the person"s relationship with God is formed not by heart and life, but by appearance and possessions (Luke 16:15; 12:15). Many who flee some of the outward, more obvious forms of sin may find themselves great transgressors and stoners in regard to attitude, spirit, and absence of genuine love!