Answer to Question 1
What does James have to say about the rich and the poor and how we treat them?
In the early church there was much worry about distinctions made between the rich and the poor. It may be hard for us now to understand the chasm that existed between the classes. For the wealthy and powerful were capable of much good and much evil. Now, in the United States and much of Europe, there has been an equalization of the social classes before the law. In churches throughout the world a rich man's soul is no more valued than that of a poor man.
Even so, James's makes the admonition, "You cannot really believe that you have faith in our glorious Lord, Jesus Christ, and yet continue to have respect of persons." By "respect of persons", he means "show favoritism". Indeed, Christ was never one to show favoritism. He often exalted the meek and the downtrodden. In a societal sense, we often do show favoritism, especially to the famous or notorious. These persons find themselves lauded to the skies or allowed to escape scrutiny for their crimes. For James and for us, Christianity is a religion for all men, and God shall surely judge us all equally no matter our station in life. And if we are to imitate Christ, we must make no more fuss over a celebrity than we would for a groundskeeper at the park.
In verse 8 James reminds us that Christ commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves. This is an important notion. It commands us to love the person, not that persons wealth, power or celebrity.
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