James 2:8

Friday, 5 July 2019

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; James 2:8

James is now speaking to those who would presume to show preference to the rich within the congregation. In verse 2:6, he said, “But you have dishonored the poor man.” He is making an example for each person to consider. He is not saying that each person has done this, but that it is an inclination that anyone could be prone to. Now, to contrast dishonoring the poor man, he says, “If you really fulfill the royal law.”

Those who had shown preference had failed and had not done what was right. Now, he shows them how to correct this by fulfilling the “royal law.” The meaning of the term “royal law” is debated, but Albert Barnes gives what is probably the best sense of what it signifies –

“It is called a ‘royal law,’ or kingly law, on account of its excellence or nobleness; not because it is ordained by God as a king, but because it has some such prominence and importance among other laws as a king has among other men; that is, it is majestic, noble, worthy of veneration. It is a law which ought to govern and direct us in all our intercourse with men – as a king rules his subjects.”

He is correct in this. Jesus exalted this law to a preeminent position. When questioned by an expert in the law concerning which was the greatest commandment, we read –

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40

Thus, as can be seen, from both the Old and New Testaments, this is “according to the Scripture.” Jesus placed loving God above all else, and then loving one’s neighbor as one loves himself. Thus, it is a “royal law,” having all of the weight and majesty of the very words of God and a precept worthy of our full attention and application to our lives.

In doing this, James says, “you do well.” In other words, there is commendation in store for you. If this precept is properly applied as given, then you are doing what is just, right, and acceptable in God’s eyes. The poor person is no less a neighbor than the rich, and so he is to be loved as a neighbor, despite his state.

Life application: The reference that James is quoting is Leviticus 19:18 –

“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

This is a book that few people read and this is a verse that is found in the middle of many other laws and rules. As one can see, though seemingly insignificant because of its placement, it is considered by the Lord as a part of the preeminent duties of man. This shows us how important it is to be well-versed in the Old Testament as well as the New. It is in this that we can understand how Jesus came to utter His words as He did.

Because James is dealing with treating others fairly as a sign of true Christian devotion, he repeats Jesus’ words. If “all the Law and the Prophets” hang on these two commandments, then we need to be extremely careful how we treat others – particularly in matters of judgment about how we accept them. If Christ has accepted them, how much more should we.

One thing is for sure, Lord God, we don’t want to fight against You. So open our hearts to be accepting of our neighbors, and to love them, even as we love ourselves. And Lord, give us the ability to put You first in our lives every moment of every day; loving you with our my hearts, souls, and minds. We know things will be in the proper perspective if we follow these holy guides. Amen.

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