James 2:1-13. Wealth and its costs

James writes of two types of glory, the glory of Jesus Christ (2:1,5,13) and the glory of wealth. His point in this passage is that we use one glory or the other to assess people. [Notes]

Michael Flynn


Audio

James 2.1-13

For further thought

2:1-4

  • James writes of two types of glory, the glory of Jesus Christ (1,5,13) and the glory of wealth. His point in this passage is that we use one glory or the other to assess people.
  • How does our culture defer to the wealthy, famous and powerful?
  • The Bible also teaches that honour is due to those to whom honour is due (Romans 13:7). How does this differ from favouring the wealthy, famous and powerful?
  • Why are we judges with evil thoughts if we show favouritism towards the rich? (4)
  • Why does the glory of Christ put the poor on the same standing as the rich in the church?
  • James is about to go onto some harsh words about the wealthy and there are more harsh words to come (4:13 to 5:6) – does he mean that it is wrong to be wealthy and right to be poor? (see also: 1Timothy 6:17-19 and Luke 16:1-14)
  • What does this passage teach us about how to welcome people into our worship services?
  • How does money answer everything (Ecclesiastes 10:19) in church circles today?

2:5-7

  • James does not romanticise poverty or excuse the abuse of power that riches can bring. In his day it was a legal procedure for a lender to seize a debtor in the streets and, literally, drag them into court (Matthew 18:1-35 illustrates this legal right as well as teachings of Jesus about how we view the poor and the rich), but James points out that God has chosen the poor to be rich in faith and heirs of his kingdom. What is the evidence for this choice of God in Biblical and church history?
  • What is some of the wealth of the kingdom, the riches of faith, which any believer can have now and which cannot be purchased?
  • If this world is not the final world what should be our attitude to the things we gain in this world?

2:8-13

  • James is making the point that if we break one part of the moral code of the Old Testament law then we are guilty of breaking all of it. If we fail the Royal Law (that is, the Law of the King and his Kingdom – see: Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:29 or Mark 12:33, Romans 13:8-10, Galatians 5:14) to love our neighbours as ourselves, because we are showing favour to the wealthy, then there may be no mercy for us if we have not been merciful to others in turn (13). What does James mean by the law of liberty in verse 12? 
  • How has mercy triumphed over judgement in Christ’s kingdom?
  • Why are we judged by the standards we use to assess others? (13, see also: Matthew 6:12, 7:1-5).