We enter into a self-contained new section of James (James 2:1-13). This passage prompts James to to speak of the relationship of faith and works, and that section (2:14-26) is James’ most cited passage in the history of theological debates. Luther and Calvin both wrestled James to the ground to make sure he wasn’t saying anything out of line when it came to grace. I bring this up because it is often forgotten what led James to that famous passage. What prompted it was a reflection on the poor, and in this matter James is much like his brother. Here are the opening words:
2:1 My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 3 If
you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say,
“Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand
there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
James 2:1 makes a profound and far-reaching point: the messianic community’s faith is in the Glorious Jesus Christ and faith in Jesus Christ is the defining point, barometer, and measuring stick for all behaviors for the messianic community. Anyone who has faith in this Glorious Jesus Christ is to live in a way that conforms to Jesus.
Those who believe in this Jesus Christ are not to show any favortism — the kind that shows up here — the favortism that shows deference to the rich and despises the poor.
But it all begins right here: faith in Jesus Christ implicates a person in his way of life.