The American Dream: Life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement regardless of social class or circumstances of birth. The facts and the feelings, the myths and the aspirations have crashed together in America today to create an intense class suspicion and sometimes class hatred.
1 My dear brothers and sisters,[a] how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? 2 For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting[b] dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. 3 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, "You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor" - well, 4 doesn't this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives? 5 Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn't God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren't they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? 6 But you dishonor the poor! Isn't it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? 7 Aren't they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name[c] you bear? 8 Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: "Love your neighbor as yourself."[d] 9 But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law. 10 For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God's laws. 11 For the same God who said, "You must not commit adultery," also said, "You must not murder."[e] So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law. 12 So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. 13 There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you. James 2:1-13
World Behind the Text:
Vast disparity btw rich and poor.
For about 100 years Rome, through exorbitant taxation had turned land owners into peasants.
Resentment toward land owners (the wealthy) ran high and vice versa.
There was some rioting and violence from peasants over grain shortages.
This violence and uprising came from peasants which led to the world history altering war of 66-70 btw Jews and Rome, and destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.
World of the Text:
James - Jesus' bro and leader of Jerusalem church.
Most of the church were peasants although some were higher educated and wealthy. (We'll talk about the economic diversity of the church more in a minute)
Likely the early part of James letter-regarding trials, faith and endurance-;were about economic instability.
The early church was a mix of rich and poor and everything in between.
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. Acts 4:32, 34-35
God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Matthew 5:3
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:1-4
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who