9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. 11 For He who said, “DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY,” also said, “DO NOT COMMIT MURDER.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.
“We live by the law and we die by the law.” Who has heard that phrase before? James point in this section is further explaining what happens when we decieve ourselves and others by the contradiction in our words and actions.
In the first half, he explains the penalty of the old law, the Mosaic Law. We know from reading through the bible that the wages of sin is death. This is his point. We cannot pick and choose parts of “the law” to live. This applies to God’s law as well as the “law of the land”. While partiality is evident in man’s law (think about celebrities who get busted for a DUI), we must recognize that because our God is constant and absolute, so is His law.
By comparing our deeds to the ten commandments, it might seem as though we are “doing ok”. Fast forward to Christ’s explanation in His sermon on the mount, He explains that the actions that are laid out in the Old Testament are merely fruits of the heart. In other words, when He tells us that adultery is more than just sleeping with someone outside of marriage, rather the sinful heart condition that lead us to it, we realize that we have all sinned since we have all at some point had a sinful heart (and still do to a certain degree). This is echoed in Luke 6, “45 The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the eviltreasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”
We find out through this that none of us is perfect (even if we act as if we are and seem to be, God knows the heart of man. David explains this to Solomon in 1 Chronicles, “serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts.” Thankfully, we are no longer subject to the eternal ramifications of this law.
James flips the switch on us and after explaining what happens if we follow “The Law” and make ourselves subject to it, that we will in turn subject others to it (as is human nature). However, if we follow the law of liberty, meaning the law of God’s love exemplified through Christ, we too will be judged according to that law. If we live under the law of God’s grace and love, we in turn will be blessed as we bless others. This is where our action (in regards to God’s blessings) comes in. We see this in Mathew 7, “2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”
Who are you judging? How are you judging yourself? How can we judge mercifully?