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“ Did not God choose those who are poor." Compare S. Luke 6: 20.
The way to the Kingdom of God is nearer and less cumbered for the poor than for the rich. The trials and troubles of the poor have a tendency to keep them humble and to lead them to look to God for aid in their need and so to become
in spirit” (S. Matth. 6:3). “ Do not the rich oppress you ? ” This refers to the rich as a class. Not every individual is meant. It refers to those who trust in their riches (S. Mark 10:24), who make them a power for evil instead of for good.
2:11. " For he who said." Everybody has favorite vices and indulgences, and most
Compound for sins they have a mind to
By damning those they're not inclined to; and they forget the same Lawgiver has laid his restrictions on every sort and kind.
2:13 “For judgment is without mercy to him who has showed no mercy.”
Here again are echoes of our Lord's words in S. Matth. 6:1, 2, etc., and a reference to the thought of his parable of the Unjust Steward in S. Matth. 18:21-35.
Those who have no pity are themselves wretched cowards. They can be moved by fear when they cannot be by love.
“ Mercy glories over judgment.” Compare S. Matth. 9:13. 2:14. If any one says he has faith but has no works."
Faith must be embodied in acts. The two cannot be separated. S. James here warns us against the delusive notion that it is enough for men to have religious emo
tions, to talk religious language, to have so called religious knowledge, and to profess the regulation religious belief, without the habitual practise of religious duties implied in a true love of God and man, and the daily devotion of a pure and noble individual life.
Here we have the recurring thought dwelt on and used as a sort of refrain : “ Can faith without works save a man?” This idea is so brought out that the whole piece from verse 14 to 26 is divided into three parts, each part forming a regular envelope stanza.
2 :19. “ The demons." See note on 3:15. 3:1.
“ The greater judgment.” Not one of us lives to himself nor dies to himself (Rom. 14:7). If this is true of the ordinary man, how much more is it true of those who attempt to teach others. “Who is sufficient for these things ?” (2 Cor. 2:6). Do not let every man set himself up to be a teacher.
“ In many things we all offend. Humble indeed was the holy mind of S. James. But this confession of error uplifts him in all right appreciation. It is the very weaknesses of Peter and Paul and James which endear them to us. It is by these we know assuredly that they were “men of like passions" with ourselves (Acts 14:15), and that where they succeeded, we, by the like grace of God, may also win the crown.
3:2. “ A perfect man.”
Control over one's tongue does not in itself constitute perfection, but it is a crucial test indicating whether one has attained to it.
“ The whole body."
This phrase is used to sum up the aggregate of all the temptations which come to us through the avenues of
3:3. “ We put the horses' bridles into their mouths."
The thought of man's power over brute creatures and natural forces, and of his weakness in the far greater sphere of self-control, suggests the striking and graphic parallel in one of the choruses of Sophocles' Antigone:
“ Many the wonders of earth,
But none more so than man.
Of mountain-ranging beast and that
And mountain bull he decks” (332–350).
“ So I have seen
3:5. How great a forest a little fire kindles.”
This image is constantly recurring in poetry ancient and modern. S. James seems to have been thinking of the wrapping of some vast forest in flame by the falling of a single spark of fire among its dead leaves. So Homer sings :
“ As when a spark scarce seen will set ablaze
The illimitable forest.” Iliad, 2 : 455. And Virgil :
“ And wraps the forest in a robe of flame."
" Is ever being set on fire itself by gehenna.” S. James does not shrink from tracing sins of speech to their source. The fire of man's wrath is kindled from beneath as the fire that cleanses is kindled from above.
Gehenna, it is to be remembered, is a Hebrew word for the place of torment. The plain English of it is valley of Hinnom. It does not answer to the Greek word Hades, - which means the place of departed spirits, but to the Greek word Tartarus, the symbol to them of the dread penalties of evil. Compare S. Matth. 5 : 22 ; S. Mark 9:43. 3: 14.
“ Do not glory."
This was likely to be the besetting sin of the party of the Circumcision in relation to the heathen converts and so was checked by S. James just as afterwards, when the prospect of the rejection of Israel was becoming a certainty, it became in its turn the sin of the heathen converts, and was then checked by S. Paul (Rom 11:18).
3: 13-18. Here is an envelope stanza on true wisdom. 3:15. “ Demon-like."
This epithet does not state that the false wisdom comes from the devil, it is to be noticed, but that it was demonlike, that is, partakes of the nature of the demons or unclean spirits who, as in the Gospels are represented as possessing the souls of men and reducing them to the level of madness. Such, S. James shows us, is the character of the spurious wisdom of the many teachers of verse i. Met together in debate, wrangling, cursing, swearing, one would take them for an assembly of demoniacs. Their disputes were marked by the ferocity, the egotism, the boasting, the malignant cunning of the insane. S. Paul's account of the doctrine of demons (1 Tim. 4 : 1), that is proceeding from demons, not from the Spirit of God, pre
sents a striking parallel. See also chapter 2 : 19, which shows how much S. James' thought shad been directed to the phenomena of possession.
3:17. Forbearing, persuasive."
True wisdom shows itself, S. James would say, in that subtle yet gentle power to persuade and win which we all feel when we come in contact with one who is clearly not fighting for his own rights, but for the cause of Truth. “ Without vacillation."
This is the condition necessarily antecedent to the power to be without hypocrisy Where the purpose is single there is no risk of a simulated hypocrisy.
“ The fruit of right-doing.” Every good deed is a fruit produced by the good seed sown in the good soil and not choked by thorns. And in its turn, every such deed is as the seed of a future fruit like in kind. It is sown in peace by those who make peace. Compare S. Matth. 5:9. Note also the resemblance between this portraiture of true wisdom and the picture which S. Paul draws in i Cor. 13, of the excellence of Love. Differing as the two teachers did, in many ways in their modes of thought and language, S. James fastening on the more practical, S. Paul on the more spiritual, aspects of the Truth as it is in Christ, there was an essential agreement in their standard of the highest form of the Christian character. A comparison of the two helps us to understand how the one teacher held out the right hand of fellowship to the other (Gal. 2 : 9), and it also leads us to hope for a like accord now among men who seem to differ in their conception of Christian truth, if only they Agree in their ultimate aim and purpose of life and feel in the depth of their being that all true love is Wisdom and all true wisdom is Love.