Commentary by Kelly Gneiting, Go to Kelly’s commentary on Chapter 1
THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES, Chapter 2
1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.
2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;
3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:
4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?
The Lord is the judge. He is the one who is qualified to measure a man. We are not. Whether that man be poor or rich, treat all equal, knowing that they are not equal, and that God favors the “poor of this world rich in faith.” The bottom line is in v. 8 of this chapter, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself…”
6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?
In a sinful society, it is to the advantage of the rich to bring lawsuits and perceived judgments against the poor, since the poor have no money to fight the injustice. “…and those Gadianton robbers… [were] condemning the righteous because of their righteousness; letting the guilty and the wicked go unpunished because of their money; and moreover to be held in office at the head of government, to rule and do according to their wills, that they might get gain and glory of the world, and, moreover, that they might the more easily commit adultery, and steal, and kill, and do according to their own wills…” –Helaman 7
7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?
By this statement, obviously being rich is extremely looked down upon in the word of God; I find it impossible for a believing rich man to set this aside. In the end a rich man trades his wealth for his salvation, and there is no comparison.
8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:
9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
For one to qualify for God’s amazing grace, through his Son Jesus Christ, that person’s commitment cannot be partial. Enjoying one’s sin, while keeping the rest of the commandments shows profound lack of understanding. Only complete and total allegiance to God is acceptable to Him. In the words of Amaleki in the book of Omni, “I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved.”
11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.
Through the atonement of Christ, we can be saved. Thus our hope for salvation is in Him who has power to save. We individually do not have this power. The Lord requires that we have a hope of salvation until that time when our calling and election is made sure, after which we can speak as Mormon, and say “…nevertheless, I know that I shall be lifted up at the last day.” (Mormon 2) I think it imprudent and improper to speak as some, saying, “I’ve been saved since I was [enter age].” Until we see Christ in the flesh and receive of his blessing, our place is to have a firm (and patient) hope and commit ourselves fully and completely to His law and commandments, which commitment involves all of our time, all of our attention, all of our money, all of our talents, and all of our heart, might, mind and strength—and our whole soul. (see 2 Nephi 25:29) The lack of an assured salvation stretches us to new horizons, and destroys all remnants of complacency. In short, it’s the journey that saves, not the idea that we’ve arrived at a certain place from our personal “long walk” with the Lord.
“It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.” -Lamentations 3
12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
“For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” –Matthew 7
14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
James is defining faith, which may be a redefinition to some who have believed that mere belief without action in accordance with that belief is sufficient. The most obvious example I can think of is the topic of war in the Book of Mormon, where the strength of the Lord ensured victory every single time, but the army still needed to perform the task of doing—going to actual battle—, and not believing the Lord would give them victory while sitting back, praying to God, and imagining it.
In the following verses, James gives another example of faith without works.
15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
Even Satan has faith in God if faith is defined as lacking works!
20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
James is about to give two examples to cement the idea that faith is action: one from the father of the house of Israel (Abraham), and one from a harlot. This contrast shows that all who believe may, and should, act on that belief. Otherwise one’s “faith” is the babblings of a wishful thinker.
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
A body without a spirit is lifeless, and cannot accomplish anything of significance in the real world. Even so believe without motion pointed towards that belief is lifeless.