Thirdmill Study Bible

Notes on James 1:26-2:13

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Tongue - James 1:26

The person who thinks himself to be religious must also be able to control his tongue. This is a restatement of v. 19 and a reminder that our speech practices are expressions of doing the word. James also reminds his readers that anyone who does not control his speech deceives his heart. Indeed, if a person will not repent of wicked speech, his religion is worthless, that is to say, false. See notes also 3:1-12.

Religion . . . clean and spotless - James 1:27

James concluded his section on action with a final plea concerning true religion. Religion that is clean and spotless is practiced not only in love for God, but also in love for neighbors. True faith in a good and just God is demonstrated in good and righteous deeds that rectify injustice. James used two examples as hallmarks of this kind of religion. First, giving aid to the fatherless and widows in their affliction. These two groups are those to whom God draws near (Isa. 1:17, 23). Second, to remain spotless that is, unstained, by the world’s idolatrous pursuit of wealth and power (4:4; 1 John 2:15-17) will mean living against the grain of our cultures to create a counterculture of God’s kingdom. James understands that to visit and care for those who cannot offer us power or wealth is a sign of the Messiah’s kingdom.

Favoritism and the Wealthy - James 2:1-13

Do Not Play Favorites. Having warned his readers against the uncertainty of riches (1:9-11), James now warns that currying favor with the wealthy, who attend church, often means mistreating or neglecting the poor. This favoritism violates God’s impartiality, and is, thus, ungodly.

Favoritism - James 2:1

James headlines this section with an admonition against favoritism. Those who hold to faith in…the Lord of glory, worship one who is impartial (Deut 10:17-20), whose justice cannot be bent by bribes. Thus, his people must treat each other and their neighbors with equal dignity and deference. Wise people and communities are marked by equity.

Gold rings...fine clothes - James 2:2-3

In order to illustrate favoritism, James pictured two people and the way they are treated as they enter the Christian assembly: one rich man with gold rings and fine clothes and a poor man in dirty clothes. The rich man is afforded a nice place of honor; whereas, the poor man is given a place of dishonor at one’s feet, like a slave. Or he is told to stand out of the way where he can be more easily ignored.

Discriminated among yourselves - James 2:4

No mere illustration, some within James’ audience had been showing preference to the wealthy and neglecting the poor. These church members have traded the wisdom of God for the wisdom of the world. Violating the practices of true religion in 1:27, James describes them as judges with evil thoughts.

Upside down economy in God's kingdom- James 2:5

In the upside down economy of his kingdom, God makes the poor rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “the meek shall inherit the earth” and the poor will possess “the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3, 5). Earthly riches cannot curry favor with God, because He accepts no bribes. His favor rests solely on those who seek his wisdom. The church would be wise to seek God’s favor, instead of the favor of the rich who often oppress the poor.

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