James 2 v 5 - 11

Throughout its history, Christianity has had a special message for the poor in this world. The opening sermon which Jesus gave (Luke 4 v 18) on to the Beatitudes (Luke 6 v 20) and then, when Jesus was banished from the synagogues the crowds of the hungry poor who followed Him desperate to hear His words and to receive His healing. Many Jews lived hand to mouth, remember the parable of the workers in the vineyard, and the fact that none of the 5,000 or the 4,000 took anything with them to eat as they travelled to hear and see Jesus! Paul, Peter and the other Apostles made it clear that the poor mattered to God. Yes, there were also those who were wealthy-Lydia, the seller of purple cloth so expensive that Emperors wore purple and the women who funded Jesus' ministry mentioned in Luke 8 v 1-3. However, in the world James inhabited, the rich oppressed the poor. People got into debt as otherwise they would have starved and creditors had the power to arrest their debtors in the street and drag them by the neck to the law courts. It is not wealth which James condemns, it is the management of wealth without sympathy which he decries. Secondly, James reinforces the keeping of the Royal Law, 'Love your neighbour as yourself', an over-arching command which Jesus chose as one of the two great commands. The Jews were very clever at separating the commandments. If two were kept and one broken that would bring a credit of one and to the Rabbis, the keeping of the Sabbath was the most important of them all, which explains why most of the arguments between Jesus and the Pharisees were about His supposed breaking of the Sabbath. James makes it clear that if one part of God's commandments are broken then it is as if all of them are broken. This is how we see sin today. We confess that we are dead in trespasses and sin, even though there may be good things we do. Friends who we know may do much that is good, but as we understand, if one part of God's Law (for example the keeping of the Sabbath) is broken then the whole edifice comes crashing down, which is why it is essential that everyone turns to Christ and asks Jesus to be their Saviour!

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