Breaking it All
8 Indeed, if you fulfill the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well. 9 If, however, you show favoritism, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the entire law, and yet stumbles at one point, is guilty of breaking it all. 11 For he who said, Do not commit adultery, also said, Do not murder. So if you do not commit adultery, but you murder, you are a lawbreaker. (James 2:8-11)
Continuing from last week’s section on the dangers of the temptations to show favoritism, James opens up in verse 8 by calling the command to “Love your neighbor as yourself” as the royal law, which is found in Leviticus 19:18, “Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.” It is possible that James calls it “royal” in reference to Jesus Christ, who would later quote this verse in Matthew 22:39, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” So, if James’ readers were obeying the royal law and were not showing favoritism, James offered credit to them, for this law is difficult to do without the love of God within a person’s life, as seen in John 13:34-35, “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
But, if James’ readers did show favoritism, they have committed “sin are convicted by the law as transgressors…[and] is guilty of breaking it all.” As Max Anders states, “God’s Law is not like a setup of ten bowling pins which we knock down one at a time. It more resembles a pane of glass in which a break at one point means that the entire pane is broken.” It is likely that James’ readers were trying to justify themselves, stating that they did not murder anyone or commit adultery, so therefore, they are good believers, even though they are showing favoritism to others. James shows that committing sin in any way still makes one a sinner in need of repentance. In verse 11, James states two commandments that were formed by God to highlight that any sin puts us in direct opposition to God.
May we not fall into the temptation to justify our “little sins,” just like the believers back in James’ day, justifying that they did not commit murder but were actively showing favoritism, giving special treatment to the rich over the poor. Instead, may we resist all temptation to sin, no matter how big or how small and pursue holiness and righteousness to be like our Savior Jesus Christ. And when we fall short, may we immediately run to our Father and repent, who is “faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all righteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Isaac De Guzman