Life Lessons from Hard Times – Studies in James
I am amazed at the blend of self-righteousness and self-deception. This is a combination that, like oil and water, never mixes, and only results in lethal consequences. Both human maladies are summarized in Biblical warnings against pride. Proverbs 16:18: Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.
Bootstrapping on the concern for favoritism and hypocrisy in the early church (James 2:1-7), favoring the wealthy and important in this first century, James reminds his readers that this is an ill-fated path that slides off the slope of spiritual condemnation, not approval. The standard is clear. Keep all of the law, or be condemned by ANY failure to follow the law.
1. James 2:8-11 8If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. Picking and choosing what we succeed at, ignoring what we fail at, is deemed GUILTY! It is human nature to tout our strengths or successes, ignoring our failures or missteps. But the Kingdom of God does not grade on the curve! Following from the standard of the Law of the Old Testament, you either keep everyone one of the 613 commands, or in failing even one, you fail them all. That is why the Old Testament, to even the most fervent devotee, brought condemnation and death, not hope, short of looking to the forward work of Jesus. That is why Paul states in Romans 7:10: I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. Short of redemption, the cross and grace, no son of Adam or daughter of Eve will ever be admitted into heaven, before a righteous and holy God.
2. James 2:12-13 12Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Grace and mercy are the antidotes to guilt, and by this, we are deemed FORGIVEN! By contrast, running from the shackles of self-righteousness, humbly receiving the gift of grace, clothed in the mercy of God through Jesus, allows us to avoid the judgment that will always come from failures in life – AND FREEDOM in the truest sense. Maybe one of my favorite phrases in the Bible is here, in part because of my own failures in life, because we walk among broken people every day and in part cautioning against criticisms of others: Mercy Triumphs over Judgment!
Can I say that again? Mercy Triumphs over Judgment! Because we are a forgiven people, because by grace we are saved, and not by works, lest any man boast, the standard of biblical mercy will always reflect the character of God. Matthew 5:7: Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. May God give you and me the grace this week to apply these selfsame standards to our lives, and the lives of those around us, in our walk and work.
– John Moore