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James 2:1-17 – The works of faith

Updated: Jul 28, 2021

My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?

You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.[ For the one who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.]

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.


This is the Epistle selection from the Episcopal Lectionary for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B 2018. In the numbering system that lists each Sunday in an ordinal fashion, this Sunday is referred to as Proper 18. It will next be read aloud in an Episcopal church by a reader on Sunday September 9, 2018. It is important because James brings into focus one’s acts must be sincerely motivated (coming from God’s influence), or one is not truly being faithful. It is not simply acts based on belief that reward a soul, but those acts based on true faith, when there is no expectation of worldly reward.

In verse one, the Greek written and translated as “My brothers and sisters,” is “Adelphoi mou.” The capitalization does not place focus on James, as “My.” Instead, it places focus on “Brothers,” stating the importance that ALL Apostles are related because ALL have been reborn as Jesus Christ. They ALL, like James, have the same Holy Spirit, such that  what is “mine” is also theirs.

While this does allow for ALL human beings of both human genders (males and females), to alter the text [the paraphrase of translation] because of modern pressures to bring equality to women, weakens the strength that comes from two words intended by God to convey “Brothers” as a powerful message that James wrote to Saints [then and now]. ALL to whom James wrote (including ALL who read these words today and forevermore) were Spiritual “Brothers” in Christ … not simply “brothers and sisters” of a church or synagogue … not simply men and women of religious philosophies.

It should also be recognized that the Greek word “mou” is the personal pronoun for “I,” in the possessive case. The Greek word “ego” is the first person pronoun from which “mou” stems. This should be understood as God stating through James that the “Brothers” aspect, as multiple beings in Jesus Christ’s name, is due to the common sacrifice of their self-egos (egoism), in order to become the Sons of God (regardless of human gender), returned to the earthly plane as Apostles and Saints.  The “I” shared by ALL Saints and Apostles is Jesus Christ.

The first verse also does not act as a question, as shown above.  James was not questioning the acts of anyone reborn as Jesus Christ.  Instead, James stated, “not with partiality hold the faith of us Jesus Christ the [one] of glory.”

The Greek word “prosōpolēmpsiais” does translate as “favoritism” and “partiality,” but a question makes it appear that James is asking Saints if they show favor towards others.  James did not imply that.  The statement says that Saints-Apostles of Christ have no “personal favoritism” that determines their level of commitment to God.  The statement is than meant to be read as recognizing no Apostle’s faith is based on selfish ego reasoning.

James was stating that Saints and Apostles “hold the faith” because they personally know Jesus Christ.  It is his Spirit that has become “the [one]” that is their “renown” [from the Greek word “doxēs”].  Such “fame” does not come from the name of any Apostle, as none of the Saints were famous prior to their deaths.  The one of their renown is the one whose name they are given – Jesus Christ.  Saints and Apostles have a totally committed grasp on “the unspoken manifestation of God” [from “doxa”] that grants them the favor of God, as His Son reborn.

Verses two through four are stating the conditional that was standard to a Jew in a synagogue, where one was expected to react to the wealthy as having been blessed by God.  The poor, on the other hand were not to be seen in that light. The Greek word “epiblepsēte” says what one “should” do, as what “might” be expected by assumptions. The Greek word “eipēte” is then stating what a Jew “should say, as the “answers” that are expected to be given that are not based on spiritual guidance but protocol.

James then questioned that hypothetical approach, where one differs towards to the rich and the poor (“diakrthēte” as “made distinctions”).  Such choosing who to welcome and who to spurn was then posing the question to such professed holy men and women, “Have you not become judges with evil thoughts?”

Was this good or bad, Abe?

Again, James referred to “brothers mine,” then adding that this relationship is through “love” (“agapētoi” as “beloved”), which is divinely manifested. This second address follows the capitalized word “Akousate,” which means “Listen.” That capitalization denotes a higher level of hearing, which goes beyond the physical limitations of human ears.  To “Listen” means one is different from ordinary peoples, as identified by the prophets [David, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Jesus] who wrote, “They have ears, but cannot hear.”  When one is reborn as Jesus Christ, the sacrifice of self-ego makes one wholly observant to the voice of God, through the Christ Mind; so listening to that holy voice is how one answers the question posed.

In the answer one’s heart listens to, we see how James wrote the Greek word equivalent to that word in Hebrew, used by Solomon in Proverb 22:1 (an accompanying optional reading), where “God has chosen” is stated. James wrote, “Theos exelexato,” which was a “choice” known by ALL Saints and Apostles; because “God has chosen” them to serve Him and because they had “chosen” to sacrifice self-ego and love God.  It is a “choice” that must be made by two in marriage, to be together as one.

The aspect of “the poor” relating to God’s chosen is then stating how one becomes materially poor in a close relationship with God.  Being Spiritually wealthy, having all past sins absolved and being given the gifts of the Holy Spirit, while promised eternal happiness in heaven, is the trade for giving up all desires for worldly things.  Knowing “the poor” is who “God has chosen” led James to then ask his fellow Saints, “Was than not what he [God] promised to those loving him [God] … to be heirs of His Kingdom?”

James then drove home this point by asking, “Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?” All of those questions are stating that an Apostle-Saint is seen by the rich as being poor, such that outward material poverty cannot project the inner riches of the Holy Spirit. The grace of God is invisible to those whose sensory organs only work in the physical plane.

In today’s world, human beings filled with God’s love and his glory of the Holy Spirit does not show through.  One does not walk down the street looking holy.  Christians do not run up to a Saint-Apostle, like autograph hounds seeing an entertainment star or sports hero.  Fans of Jesus Christ do not wildly exclaim, “Jesus! Can I take a selfie with you?!?!” This is because Saints always look like the poor, which makes the rich always want to take advantage of them and the common poor push them out of the way, as they scramble to follow the rich.

Those questions about the rich taking advantage of the poor then led James to remind his fellow Saints that were in the name of Jesus Christ, “You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”’ For Christians, this Scripture is immediately thought to be the words of Jesus, but James had never read anything that we know as the New Testament or the Gospels.

James and all of his brothers in Christ (males and females) knew this was a reference to Leviticus 19:9-18, where it is written, as spoken by Moses: “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18)  Moses had led the Israelites into a desolate place, separating them from the distractions of other peoples and the rulers of other nations.  God wanted them to know the value of depending on others whose lives were likewise set amid the same harsh and barren surroundings.

In all the namby pamby preaching of political pastors, who see the world’s poor as being who Jesus was speaking of when he said “love your neighbors,” using this Biblical quote as a poison arrow by which their political opponents can be shot to death, the words spoken by Jesus are from the same God that spoke them through Moses. The intent never changes with the political climates of a world always filled with heathen nations, none of which have sworn an oath to Yahweh elohim – the LORD of all gods. Therefore, James was also telling Jewish Christians (James was not sent to spread the Word to Gentiles) that maintaining this love of fellow Jews was doing good (from “kalōs poieite”).

The message of James applies to Christians.  Apostles of Christ, to whom his letter was written, were Jews that had been filled with the Holy Spirit.  They were Christians in the truest sense; not only from having accepted Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah, but from knowing Jesus Christ by being reborn as him. ALL Christians are this, as brothers in Christ, so ALL Christians are “neighbors” (from “plēsion”) because they live “near” to one another spiritually.

This closeness is less about spatial proximity, as in one small location of land (a neighborhood), but more about being “neighbors” in the closeness Christians experience with the One God.  This makes a “neighbor” a “friend,” which is different from an enemy and different from family.  Thus, Moses was not telling the children of Israel to welcome all caravans of peoples with the love that is to be held by Saints and Apostles for one another, but to love those who were likewise poor in a wilderness setting [poor, but in relationship with God].

The same command goes to Christians, meaning one should not project hatred onto those of other religious beliefs.  One knows the world is filled with different peoples, nations, and philosophies.  To each his own.  One does well to see the lack of love in others – to oneself and to one’s God – as reason to thank God for the love between those whose lives are equally blessed by God’s love.

This difference is then stated by James as: “But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” This says that those who do not know the love of Yahweh are sinners, just as were ALL the Saints and Apostles before they committed to the One God of other gods. To pretend love of those who defame Yahweh (by not loving Him) is to sin and become selfish (in love of self and the self’s desire to please any and every one, except God and their fellow Saints and Apostles). One loves one’s enemies by allowing one’s enemies to hate them and to persecute them, acting as the rich of the world.

Willingly accepting an enemy’s beliefs as one’s own is cheating on God or divorce.  An enemy’s beliefs being forced upon one is like rape.  Because one appears materially poor, through sacrifice of self, one opens oneself up to abuse.  In this way, one loves an enemy by accepting one has hatred in one’s heart, staying far away from that hater.  One does not provoke anger in others purposefully.  Partiality then shows an inner weakness and lack of faith, which project as selfish acts.  As such, one’s true faith is demonstrated more in the face of war, than in times of peace.

James then went deeper into this vein of thought provided to him by God’s Holy Spirit. He wrote, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” In reference to the specific law he had stated earlier, to love one’s neighbors as oneself, James compared this commandment to two laws that are deemed to be of the Ten Commandments (Do not murder and Do not commit adultery). That comparison makes this commandment of loving a neighbor be seen as an equal, as ALL the commandments spoken by Moses are to be maintained. To break any of God’s Laws – which differentiates His children [priests] from the other peoples of other nations – means to turn away from God [divorce].

To turn away from God is to return to sin and a life that worships self.  When one has denied self, this is not an issue.  However, when one starts picking and choosing which laws are okay to bend and break, one is kneeling at the altar of ego, not Yahweh.

When James wrote, “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty,” he pointed out that one’s actions speak for one’s commitment to God. Words only get in the way, when written on paper scrolls or rotely memorized.  When one is a wife of God and walking behind His lead, one acts from the heart, not the head.  The way one acts then determines the letter of the law.

Pled guilty of covering up child sexual abuse.

Whereas some might get all excited about an American concept of “liberty,” the meaning of “to be judged by the law of liberty” means God allows each human being the “freedom” (from “eleutheria”) to choose what laws one will obey and follow. That choice is then how one’s soul will be judged when one’s life on planet earth ceases to be in the body of flesh presently surrounding one’s soul. It means one has the liberty to worship God or not worship God. However, if one chooses to serve God, and God has chosen one to serve Him, one is NOT free to pick and choose which commandments one will follow, as Saints and Apostles fully understand the ‘All or Nothing’ rule.

This is confirmed by James stating, “For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” Since the word “mercy” is presented three times in translation, it demands one understand what “mercy” means.

The word “eleos” is translatable as “mercy, pity, and compassion.” This is not a word that should be interpreted as forgiveness, such as some allowance of sin that is based on a human’s discretion. For any human to determine what broken laws can be wiped clean, that would be selfish, would it not?

The word “eleos,” according to HELP Word-studies, properly conveys “mercy as it is defined by loyalty to God’s covenant.” Certainly, this is based on its usage in holy documents.  By showing “no mercy,” then one is showing no ability to be “covenant loyal.” Therefore, a Saint-Apostle acts as God wills, through His Son’s Spirit controlling one’s self body, so covenant-love becomes the Triumph of judgment – one acts in accordance with God’s laws and God judges one with Spiritual wealth and eternal life.

This then leads to James asking the question that this reading is known for, and why it is chosen to preach: “What good is it if you say you have faith but do not have works?” In reality, this question is better stated (based on the literal written text) as, “What is the gain [or profit] if one says their faith is displayed in their works but those works do not?” This question fully addresses the issue of not showing the deeds that completely observe the commandments of God, through Moses.

Another word for “faith” (Greek “pistis”) is “fidelity.”  That translation better shows how an Apostle-Saint is married to God, through love that promises total commitment and devotion. One’s “fidelity” is not the day-to-day words that repeat, “I love you,” as much as it is the daily acts of faithfulness. Marriage vows to God are His Commandments being fully agreed upon, with “faith” then being acts of observance; those completely matching one’s actions. Therefore, James is putting forth the question that cannot be answered in any way other than, “Faith without works is dead.”

“Till death do us part” applies to divorce too.

The word “dead” (from “nekra“) means the soul is condemned (as always when not committed to God) to experience the mortal end of a bodily existence.  It means, rather than a soul forever going to some place like Sheol or Purgatory, it is sentenced to be reincarnated into another body of flesh that has a worldly “shelf life” that is temporary.  All the wealth of possessions one slaved to amass are gone, with one’s soul having to start over.  It means the judgment of not living up to the commandments of God [one’s Free Will allowance] is losing the fantasy of going to heaven when one dies.

James wrote, “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?”

Here, he actually wrote “adelphos ē adelphē,” which includes both “brothers and sisters.”  The inclusion of “sisters” means James knew “Adelphoi” [the “Brothers” this reading began with] was both human genders, filled with the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Because of the masculinity of God the Father and His Son Jesus, the presence of that Holy Spirit must be stated as “Brothers.”

This then points to those still without the loss of self-ego being told, “We are just like you, but God supplies our daily needs.” Those words spoken are empty if one is not seeing those who are poor, seeking God to choose them, need help with God passing onto them the Holy Spirit. A true Saint-Apostle must then reach out and act, as commanded by God, so His Son can touch more seekers of faith.  This is how three thousand Jews were filled by the words of twelve disciples-turned-Apostles on that Pentecost day.

As the Epistle selection for the sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, when one’s personal ministry for the LORD should be underway – one is doing the deeds of faith – the message here is to see oneself in others. Knowing that oneself was also poor in spirit, while capable of feeding and clothing oneself without asking for help, it was when one sacrificed self-ego that then one became spiritually “naked and hungry.” One’s marriage to God is not dependent of any other human being’s influence, which puts one totally at the mercy [remember “covenantal-love”] of God, both to and from. One must have faith that God will act from an equal committed stance, fulfilling His vows to a new wife [a.k.a. a new addition to the Brothers in Christ family].

A relationship built on complete trust.

This is how the works and deeds of faith manifest in the world. The wives of God are all Christians, as His priests ministering to His needs. ALL are family, of the spiritual blood of Jesus Christ. ALL are neighbors in faith. God then leads His new wives to seek and find His other wives, who will also be led to receive them.

Together they act as one church, such that ALL support one another’s needs in a communal setting, not unlike that which surrounded Jesus of Nazareth and his family and followers. The naked are clothed in the robes of righteousness, made for them by those who wear the same clothing. The hungry have their spiritual needs reinforced by those who also have been enlightened to the meaning of God’s Word. That fellowship of support means each can say, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill.”

The problem that has befallen the churches of Christianity today is they feel a call to help the needy, as the works of faith. Because that does little more than put all churches on the list of “donation sources” (i.e.: charities) held by those who are addicted to sin, when none of the perpetual “needy” ever seriously consider a newfound life that is totally committed to God, the deeds of the churches are not the deeds of God. They are not acts of faith, meaning their results are dead.

It becomes a situation where sinners are welcomed with the love of neighbors, when it is regularly understood that the sinners are there to test one’s commitment to God’s commandments. God does not marry into Saints and Apostles that take on the name of His Son for the purpose of becoming priests that enable sinners to propagate.  Charities help themselves more often than they help the needy: when not paying huge salaries to organizers, the donors are claiming their “gifts” as non-taxable.  One cannot be given heaven, when one has already received worldly currency for helping the poor.

The communal setting of neighborhoods is lost. The total commitment to God, as an “all in” commitment that had all Apostles sell their possessions and give the profits to the poor – THE COMMUNAL NEIGHBORHOOD – so all Saints could go into the world as poor men with nothing material to offer, has been long lost. The “Church” has become the rich man with handout available. The poor go to there to get crumbs, not Spiritual uplifting. The “Church” is very comfortable passing out crumbs, while amassing large holdings of possessions and wealth.

And a crumb for you ….

A minister to the LORD has become like an endangered species. The “mating call” that goes out for other ministers to respond, now draws silence in return.  The urge to share the love of God with another, so a true church can be formed simply by two or more coming together in the name of Jesus Christ, has morphed into club memberships with contact lists.  Rare is a call answered with a howl back that says, “I am here! I love you brother of mine!”

Still, the world is where God sends His Saints and Apostles, and they never travel alone; not as long as Father, Son and Holy Spirit are in them.

#faithwithoutworksisdead #James2117

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