CONTEXT: Matthew Henry comments: All professions of faith are vain, if not producing love and justice to others. (1-13) The necessity of good works to prove the sincerity of faith, which otherwise will be of no more advantage than the faith of devils. (14-26)
Our text for today comes at the end of the first theme of James Chapter 2. We find the stage set if you will in v.1 show no favoritism, no prejudice, no snobbery] the chapter then goes on v.2-7 to describe situations that may arise when one might be tempted to discriminate. James then goes on in v.8-12 to note other areas where believers might fail.
Understanding our text requires two key points first it does not mean that those who do not show mercy are condemned to hell. Romans 8:1 and other similar verses settled that issue forever.
What it does mean is those FULLY committed to Christ will show mercy just like Christ. If you have been indwelled by the Holy Spirit it is pretty difficult to resist that call to be merciful. We (believers) are going to be surrounded by sin daily; our own, fellow Christians, and for certain non-believers. What kind of testimony would we have if we went around condemning everyone?
Let me be clear about this, we should be discerning (judgmental) as to the sin of others and ourselves. We need to be protective of our property and families while at the same time as Paul emphasized to the Church in Colossae C.3; 12 So, as God’s own chosen people, who are holy [set apart, sanctified for His purpose] and well-beloved [by God Himself], put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience [which has the power to endure whatever injustice or unpleasantness comes, with good temper]; 13 bearing graciously with one another, and willingly forgiving each other if one has a cause for complaint against another; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so should you forgive.
The following Devotional may be of help:
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matt. 5:7).
God commends merciful people but condemns the merciless.
Scripture shows that those whom God blessed most abundantly were abundantly merciful to others. Abraham, for example, helped rescue his nephew Lot even after Lot had wronged him. Joseph was merciful to his brothers after they sold him into slavery. Twice David spared Saul’s life after Saul tried to kill him.
But just as sure as God’s commendation is upon those who show mercy, His condemnation is upon those who are merciless. Psalm 109:14-16 says, “Let the iniquity of [the merciless person’s] fathers be remembered before the Lord, and do not let the sin of his mother be blotted out . . . because he did not remember to show [mercy].”
When judgment comes, the Lord will tell such people, “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me” (Matt. 25:41-43). They will respond, “Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?” (v. 44). He will reply that when they withheld mercy from those who represented Him, they were withholding it from Him (v. 45).
Our society encourages us to grab everything we can for ourselves, but God wants us to reach out and give everything we can to others. If someone wrongs you, fails to repay a debt, or doesn’t return something he has borrowed from you, be merciful to him. That doesn’t mean you excuse sin, but you respond to people with a heart of compassion. That’s what Christ did for you—can you do any less for others?
Suggestions for Prayer
If there is someone who has wronged you, pray for that person, asking God to give you a heart of compassion for him or her. Make every effort to reconcile as soon as possible.
For Further Study
Read Romans 1:29-31. How did Paul characterize the ungodly?
From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.