As we begin Showing Mercy, Lesson 6, Chapter 2, James addresses three very familiar concepts – favoritism, judgment, and mercy. Most know they should not judge or show favoritism but should show mercy. In actuality, the world does show favoritism and they do judge and do not show mercy.
“My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?
Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?
If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:1-13 NASB I added the bold emphasis.
James Loving Plea
James makes a loving plea, “do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.” He asked these Christians not to make distinctions, separations or divisions, among themselves and others, because the result would be that they would become Judges with evil (wicked, malicious thoughts and motives).
The Greek words used here indicate double-mindedness in the people due to evil reasoning. As a group and as individuals, they were double-minded. Perhaps they were torn between what they knew Christ desired and what their flesh desired. This was not about making a decision as to right and wrong. The poor had done nothing wrong. Instead, they were condemning and dishonoring poor people because they were poor.
They had judged and dishonored the poor whom God had chosen to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom.
There was no sin committed by the poor. Yet, these Christians were entertaining disdain and judgment which caused separation, class-based segregation and dishonor. Dishonor means to disgrace, shame, embarrass, humiliate, discredit, degrade, debase, lower, cheapen, drag down, drag through the mud, blacken the name of, give a bad name to, show in a bad light.
Judgment or Wisdom?
James heart of mercy pled with them to stop this evil practice. While this is not a study on judging, it will suffice to say that we are not to judge. There are certain determinations we must make daily which we may refer to as having ‘good judgment.’ We determine to stay away from someone or something because of the danger of harm from them. We are not judging the person. If our only judgments are in regard to right and wrong for ourselves and the protection of others, we are not setting ourselves up as “Judges” of others.
Judgments are made in the blink of an eye as we determine right from wrong. If that was as far as we went, it might be acceptable. However, if the result is a negative change in our view of the person, our reasonings may become evil. In our estimation, the person becomes less or worse. We label them and then regard them differently. If we don’t catch ourselves, we may find that we separate from them for all the wrong reasons.
The new Christians James was addressing were not determining right from wrong. They became condemning Judges, disdaining and dishonoring some over others – the rich over the poor. James declared this to be evil.
In Lesson 5, we saw the new commandment Jesus gave us – to love one another as He loves us. We are to obey the law of freedom. We are free from condemnation and free to stop condemning others. Freedom to love is also freedom to stop shaming others and ourselves. The ‘law of freedom’ says we are free to stop sinning and free to be conformed to the image of Christ. James is instructing and encouraging this very thing.
Judging is a Heart Issue
James does not say why judging was happening. It is easy to imagine that the impetus was the same as it is today. Was it a struggle for personal gain or recognition? Perhaps, the division and discrimination was a result of selfishness and pride. James was not advocating being rude to someone who might deserve recognition. He was saying there was a heart issue which caused these Christians to create division and discrimination against others who held no fault in God’s eyes.
James reminded them of the royal law – the King’s law, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If they were fulfilling that royal law, they were doing well. However, they were not fulfilling it and so they were not doing well. Instead, they were sinning by showing favoritism and shaming the innocent, making them guilty and deserving of punishment.
If we Give No Mercy, We Receive No Mercy
Not only are we to live by the law of liberty, but we will also be judged by it! What a frightening thought. If I have shown no mercy, I will receive no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. No matter how much we want to judge or how hurt we may be, we must receive and extend mercy (compassion), allowing it to dispel all judgment.
“So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”
James speaks of showing mercy, the healing oil, the remedy for their sin. Mercy is a beautiful thing and is discussed throughout the entire Bible. God is a God of mercy. We are to show mercy. Mercy is a gift. We are to receive and give mercy freely.
Mercy is beautiful. It speaks of sacrifice and compassion.
In addition, mercy is also powerful. In the Greek, mercy literally ‘boasts against’ or ‘triumphs’ over judgment or accusation. When we love as Jesus loved us, we are extending compassion, not judgment. If Jesus had acted out of judgment, there would have been no salvation for any of us because we were guilty. Instead, His mercy triumphed over (boasted over) the judgment we deserved.
This is why mercy is beautiful. Jesus’ absolute, unselfish, compassionate, powerful, eternal, grace-filled, and forgiving sacrifice is exquisite in its magnitude, its pain, price, and result. How much more beautiful could anything be?
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 NKJV
Mercy and Grace are what we find when we approach the throne of God. We desperately look for mercy and grace. Yet, we can easily leave that place and fail to do the same for others.
Bible Verses About Mercy
“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Matthew 9:13 NKJV
“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.” Matthew 23:23 NLT
Show Mercy and Compassion
“Then the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Execute true justice, Show mercy and compassion Everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, The alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart Against his brother.’” Zechariah 7:8-10 NKJV
“He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8 NKJV
Be the Light in the Darkness of Judgment
The world we live in is filled with judgment and hatred which is openly expressed and approved of. We must strive daily to be the light in the midst of this darkness. Our enemy sets himself up as the judge and would love to do the same for us – he has a robe and gavel ready to hand to us anytime we will accept it!
He condemns us, points out all of our shortcomings, mocks us, shames us, encourages us to give up, tells lies that create fear, compares us, and showers hatred on us in the form of deception. Then, invites us to do the same to others.
But – we are not his! We do not belong to him, do not have to listen to him, and do not have to allow him to continue to speak his lies to us.We must strive daily to be the light in the midst of this darkness. Our enemy sets himself up as the judge and would love to do the same for us - he has a robe and gavel ready to hand to us anytime we will accept it! Click To Tweet
You and I have the power – he does not. We have the power, the armor, and the Holy Spirit.
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:11-12 NKJV All emphasis is mine.
Sometimes just maintaining awareness that we do something helps us stop doing it. If I am aware of my tendency to judge and I am self-controlled and watchful in regard to judgment, I am far less likely to judge and condemn.
“Be sober (self-controlled), be vigilant (watchful); because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist (stand against) him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” 1 Peter 5:8-9 NKJV
The Word tells us what the problem is and how to solve it.
- Live in the law of liberty – the freedom not to sin; free of the inability to resist sin; free to be holy as He is holy.
- Love Him – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength.”
- Love others as He loves you – the new commandment.
- Do not judge or engage in favoritism outwardly or inwardly.
- If necessary, set boundaries as you extend mercy and grace.
- Do not allow the enemy any place in your life.
- Having done all – STAND!
Then – show mercy. Here is how to show mercy in Jesus’ own words:
“And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” Matthew 25:34-40 NASB
Let us embrace mercy every day – no excuses. For it is mercy which brought salvation and mercy which sustains our love. Let beautiful mercy triumph over every judgment.
You might also enjoy reading: 15 Scripture Steps to Win the Battle of the Mind