Being respected is more important than having great riches.
To be well thought of is better than owning silver or gold.
2 The rich and the poor are alike
in that the Lord made them all.
A person who does evil things will receive trouble in return.
Then he won’t be cruel to others any longer.
9 A generous person will be blessed
because he shares his food with the poor.
Do not abuse poor people because they are poor.
And do not take away the rights of the needy in court.
23 The Lord will defend them in court.
And he will take the life of those who take away their rights.
James 2:1-10, [11-13], 14-17
Love All People
2 My dear brothers, you are believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. So never think that some people are more important than others. 2 Suppose someone comes into your church meeting wearing very nice clothes and a gold ring. At the same time a poor man comes in wearing old, dirty clothes. 3 You show special attention to the one wearing nice clothes. You say, “Please, sit here in this good seat.” But you say to the poor man, “Stand over there,” or “Sit on the floor by my feet!” 4 What are you doing? You are making some people more important than others. With evil thoughts you are deciding which person is better.
5 Listen, my dear brothers! God chose the poor in the world to be rich with faith. He chose them to receive the kingdom God promised to people who love him. 6 But you show no respect to the poor man. And you know that it is the rich who are always trying to control your lives. And they are the ones who take you to court. 7 They are the ones who say bad things against Jesus, who owns you.
8 One law rules over all other laws. This royal law is found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”[a] If you obey this law, then you are doing right. 9 But if you are treating one person as if he were more important than another, then you are sinning. That royal law proves that you are guilty of breaking God’s law. 10 A person might follow all of God’s law. But if he fails to obey even one command, he is guilty of breaking all the commands in that law.
Faith and Good Works14 My brothers, if someone says he has faith, but does nothing, his faith is worth nothing. Can faith like that save him? 15 A brother or sister in Christ might need clothes or might need food. 16 And you say to him, “God be with you! I hope you stay warm and get plenty to eat.” You say this, but you do not give that person the things he needs. Unless you help him, your words are worth nothing. 17 It is the same with faith. If faith does nothing, then that faith is dead, because it is alone.
Jesus Helps a Non-Jewish Woman24 Jesus left that place and went to the area around Tyre. [a] He went into a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. But Jesus could not stay hidden. 25 A woman heard that he was there. Her little daughter had an evil spirit in her. So the woman quickly came to Jesus and fell at his feet. 26 She was not Jewish. She was Greek, born in Phoenicia, in Syria. She begged Jesus to force the demon out of her daughter.
27 Jesus told the woman: “It is not right to take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs. First let the children eat all they want.”
28 She answered, “That is true, Lord. But the dogs under the table can eat the pieces of food that the children don’t eat.”
29 Then Jesus said, “That is a very good answer. You may go. The demon has left your daughter.”
30 The woman went home and found her daughter lying in bed. The demon was gone.
Jesus Heals a Deaf Man31 Then Jesus left the area around Tyre. He went through Sidon to Lake Galilee, to the area of the Ten Towns. [b] 32 While he was there, some people brought a man to him. This man was deaf and could not talk. The people begged Jesus to put his hand on the man to heal him.
33 Jesus led the man away from the crowd, to be alone with him. Jesus put his fingers in the man’s ears. Then Jesus spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 Jesus looked up to heaven and took a deep breath. He said to the man, “Ephphatha!” (This means, “Be opened.”) 35 When Jesus did this, the man was able to hear. He was also able to use his tongue, and he spoke clearly.
36 Jesus commanded the people not to tell anyone about what happened. But the more he commanded them, the more they told about it. 37 They were really amazed. They said, “Jesus does everything well. He makes the deaf hear! And those who can’t talk—Jesus makes them able to speak.”
James wants us to be better people, or maybe it is more correct to say that James understands how hard it can be for people to be the way God needs us to be. James gives us a perfect example, “Suppose someone comes into your church meeting wearing very nice clothes and a gold ring. At the same time a poor man comes in wearing old, dirty clothes. You show special attention to the one wearing nice clothes. You say, “Please, sit here in this good seat.” But you say to the poor man, “Stand over there,” or “Sit on the floor by my feet!”” This is super easy to imagine happening. Can you picture how you would act if you walked into church and there was someone sitting in the pew that your family normally does? If that person was dressed nicely and was clean with a fresh haircut, how would you react to them? Since you are kids, maybe imagine that you are an adult, or that the stranger is also a kid. You might greet them, welcome them to church, introduce yourself. You might do things to make them feel welcomed. Now imagine that the person sitting in your pew is wearing dirty clothes, maybe they don’t match or are torn. The person themselves is dirty, hair is matted, teeth not brushed, they even smell a bit. Would you shake their hand and greet them, sit down beside them and welcome them to church? We would probably all like to say that we would do that, but really would we?
Now as a kid there are many good reasons for not walking up to strangers and engaging with them. Even as an adult there are good reasons to avoid this, but sometimes we need to see past those. If you think about how easy it is to greet and welcome the clean, nicely dressed person, and how hard it is to welcome someone who is not so pleasant to be around, you can understand why it is important to help that second person. If you do not greet the “rich” person, others will mostly likely do it. However, if you do not greet the “poor” person, it is likely that others will not as well. James isn’t telling us to ignore or be rude to the rich person, only that we need to treat the rich and the poor with equal respect.
Jesus shows us how to do this in healing the Greek woman’s daughter. Now back at this time there were a lot of rules about men and women interacting, and Jew’s and non-Jew’s. This is why when the woman asks Jesus to help her daughter he first says, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs. First let the children eat all they want.” This might sound really mean, because the children are the people of Israel, and Jesus is calling the gentiles, or non-Jewish people, including this woman, dogs. Of course, Jesus is not really being mean to the woman here, he is testing her. When he denies her request, she might just go away. If she doesn’t really believe in who he is, or what he is saying, she will give up easily, but she doesn’t. No, the woman answers Jesus saying, “That is true, Lord. But the dogs under the table can eat the pieces of food that the children don’t eat.” Jesus knows that not all of the people of Israel are listening to him, and that those who do are not receiving less by helping this woman. Like dogs being able to eat crumbs under a table, both the Jewish people and the non-Jewish people can be fed, can believe and be healed.
This woman was, in Jesus’ culture, the dirty poor person that James might have had in mind. After all, she was a “dog” and not one of the people of God. Jesus could have told her to go away, to sit on the floor, and no one would have thought anything of it, but that is not what he did. That is not what we should do. We should look at every person as God looks at them, not seeing the outside, but seeing what is inside their hearts.