We come to the last argument James uses with the messianic community. It is wrong to exploit the poor because it is against Jesus’ teaching, because it is contrary to election, because it is stupid, and finally because there is a powerful religious argument. Here are the words from James 2:7:
Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?
The rich are verbally assaulting The Name.
It could be argued that “The Name” is Ha-Shem, the sacred Name of Israel’s God (YHWH). But it is far more likely, especially in light of James 2:1 (where Jesus is called The Glorious One), that “The Name” is “Jesus.” This fits into Phil 2:6-11 and the early Christian practice of calling on the name of Jesus.
The Rich were slandering the very name of Jesus somehow — in making fun of them, in mocking the Savior of the messianists, or even of deriding that they thought they had found the Messiah of Israel.
This should be enough, James says, for why they need to treat the poor better and why they need to stop kow-towing to the rich.
We’ve stretched this passage out this week for a simple reason: we need a daily reminder of how we are treating the poor, and perhaps by keeping this before us all week we will hear the voice of God about the poor in our midst. Furthermore, I’m impressed with how much James is able to get out of this one situation and exploit it for teaching the messianists.