James 2

This devotional is written by Peter Russell.

James 2

Favouritism forbidden
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old 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?

5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonoured the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself,’ you are doing right. 9 But if you show favouritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as law-breakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’[b] also said, ‘You shall not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a law-breaker.

12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Faith and deeds
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.

20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.


I am a member of a gym. Not that you could tell by looking at me, but if you search through my wallet you will find a membership card for a nice establishment not far from my office.

I used to go regularly but then COVID-19 happened.  Whilst the gym reopened some time ago, my current lack of fitness testifies that I have barely been back since.  Alas the only pounds I am losing are from my bank account in membership fees!

Today’s passage is understandably considered in the context of salvation. It seems to cut across the narrative elsewhere of salvation by faith in Jesus alone. In fact the book of James proved so controversial that the reformer Martin Luther did not consider it expressed the ‘nature of the gospel’. Perhaps it is better considered as a call to genuine involvement in the Kingdom of God rather than a commentary on its entry requirements.

Let’s imagine for a moment that God is fairly generous with the membership cards (which I like to think He is); surely the purpose is that we are reconciled with Him in order to co-work with Him and become more like Him?

This is a challenge to me having grown up with a unhealthy obsession with technical salvation. As I read this passage God is challenging me to deeper authenticity of faith by active participation in the Kingdom.  That might look like getting involved in the exciting Love Marylebone initiatives; re-engaging with gathered worship or private devotional time; inviting a friend to the Life Course or whatever the Spirit puts on your heart.

I hope my faith means more than my gym membership card and I am inspired to shake off the lethargy and to get spiritually active again.

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