“Did not God choose the poor of the world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor! … [If] you carry out the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and thus are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but stumbles in one point only has become guilty of all of it.” (James 2:5–6, 8–10 LEB).
The poor of the world are chosen to be rich in faith. In God’s kingdom, things are reversed from the ways you would expect them. You would expect for James to tell us that those who are rich are surely blessed, and thus are clearly the most thankful (and perhaps, by extension, inheritors of great things), but he doesn’t. Instead, he tells us that that the poor are rich in faith, and thus heirs of a great blessing—God’s kingdom.
James then goes on to confront us about that which we so easily forget: we’re called to love our neighbor, as we would want to be loved; and that means avoiding partiality. When we show partiality, we not only do wrong by others, but actually go against what James calls the “royal law” of God. When we stumble on the point of showing partiality, we are breaking the value of the entire law of God: loving him and others—we cannot show our love for him without showing our love for others. Thankfully, God is always quick to show mercy and grace, but this does not make our mistake against the poor acceptable or easily excusable.
When reading James’ thoughts, I am struck by the fact that he presents us not just with a commandment, but with an opportunity. Here, in this little New Testament letter, it is revealed to us how God’s Kingdom works. Here, in this letter, we’re given a chance to turn away from that which we think will fulfill us and turn towards the fulfilling work of God. We’re given a chance to show true love for the inheritors of God’s Kingdom, the poor.
James offers us a powerful opportunity and an incredible message—whether we’re wealthy or not. In God’s Kingdom, the only difference between those who are wealthy and those who are not is the ease by which they enter his kingdom and join his work. Will you join his work today?
(This blog post is part of the series "What James Penned about Poverty.")