Online Bible Commentary
Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well; 9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (NKJV)
In this passage, James calls for Christians to “fulfill” (v. 8a), or obey, the “royal law” (v. 8b): "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev. 19:18, v. 8c). The word translated “royal” is the Greek word “basilikos”, which also means sovereign or preeminent. James likely is giving preeminence to this law, as Paul did later in A.D. 62 when he wrote: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).
Christians would “do well” (v. 8d), please God, by obeying this law. To love your neighbor as yourself means to treat them as you would like to be treated. The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) tells us that our neighbor is anyone in need, not just those whom we like. The Gospel of Luke was also written later, about 60 A.D.
So If we “show partiality” (v. 9a) to some “neighbors” but not others, we are not loving them as we love ourselves. We are breaking the commandment. Therefore, when we show partiality we “commit sin” (v. 9b) because we are “transgressors” (v. 9c) of the law to love your neighbor as yourself.
Breaking one of God’s laws is like breaking all of God’s laws (v. 10). When it comes to obeying God, we cannot pick and choose which laws we will obey and which laws we will ignore (v. 11). When we break one, we have broken all. Just because we may disagree with some of God’s laws, we are still responsible for obeying them. We have still sinned, if we break them.
We are to speak and are to do as “those who will be judged by the law of liberty” (v. 12). As Christians, our words and our deeds should match. They should be pleasing to God. We should not show partiality, either through our words or actions.
Christians are under the law of grace, not the law of judgment. We will be judged under the “law of liberty” (v. 12b), the law of grace. When we go before the judgment seat of Christ we will be judged not on whether we will go to Heaven or Hell. That was already decided on the cross.
Instead, Christians will be judged according to the rewards that they will receive in Heaven. Some will receive more rewards in Heaven than others “based on what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). Therefore, we should be very careful to always try to please God, and not break any of His laws.
If we have shown no mercy to others, if we have treated them poorly compared to the way we treated others, the Lord will show no mercy to us at the time of judgment (v. 13a). Our rewards will reflect the way we have treated others.
“Mercy triumphs over judgment” (v. 13b), means that mercy is greater than judgment. The Old Testament Law was based on judgment. It did not work. It did not cure mankind’s sin problem. It was inferior to the New Testament Law of grace. Through the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross God showed mercy to sinners instead of judging them. Mankind’s sin problem was cured once and for all. Mercy won out. In the same way, showing mercy when relating to others also wins out.
So we should show mercy, by not showing partiality. We should not play favorites. That is not pleasing to God. That is committing a sin. That is not treating others as we would like to be treated. That is not loving your neighbor as yourself.