Note—As you work through the discussion guide, remember that you do not have to answer every question; pick and choose which questions work best for your group discussion.
Introduction: Discuss a time when you first met someone and judged them a certain way. Then after getting to know them, your perspective on them changed completely. What caused you to judge them initially? What changed that altered your “judgment” of them?
Explain: As we read James 2 today, be sure and keep the overall context of the letter going. We are studying it in chunks, but it was written to be read as a unit. So, with that in mind…
Question 1: What have we learned thus far in James? What do you recall from our recent sermons on James?
Read 2:1-4: 1 My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Explain: This is not about seating arrangements. It’s not about poverty and wealth. It is about the gospel changing hearts that must show up in actions, specifically, actions in relationship to others around us that reveal a relationship with God.
Question 2: Why does James use the phrase “Glorious Lord Jesus Christ” here? It’s a very full title and a bit unusual…so why here?
Explain: He is contrasting the glory of Christ with the “glory” of people. The comparison is striking and shows how silly it is to be impressed with people. How can people possibly have glory compared to Christ?
Read 2:5-6a: 5 Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have insulted the poor.
Question 3: How does the world view poverty and wealth as opposed to how believers are to view it?
Read 2:6b-7: Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?
Explain: James is not advocating for a reverse bias against the rich. He is casting vision for perspective. Why are they so impressed with these people who are clearly not impressive? It is just crazy.
Question 4: How have you been impressed with what is not ultimately impressive?
Read 2:8-11: 8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.
Explain: James is relying heavily on the teachings of Jesus. His readers are familiar with that teaching, and so must we be to understand his main point. Jesus often said, “You have heard it said, but I say…” Then he would go straight for the heart, not just actions.
Read: When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment in the law was, he responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matt 22:37-40
You have heard it was said to those of old, ‘you shall not murder, and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.” Matt. 5:21
Question 5: How does Jesus’ teaching on the “royal law” (v. 2:8) help make sense of what James is saying about “adultery/murder” and keeping or breaking the entire law?
Read 2:12-13: 12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!
Explain: Paul generally writes to those who are focused on working for their salvation. James generally writes for those who are not focused on working out their salvation.
Question 6: What do you think this distinction means practically?
Question 7: How does the law of Christ give us freedom? (v. 12)
Question 8: What are the distinctions in the following statements?
We must do his will. We are able to do his will. We get to do his will.
Conclude: Who have you held in judgment? How do you need to change?
How does your perspective on certain people paint a picture of your heart that doesn’t reflect the image of Christ?
*This doesn’t mean you “forget” if someone has wronged you…use wisdom and balance in thinking about this.