When Mercy Sets the Standard

Today’s Reading: James 2:8-20

Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.

For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.” So, if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law.

So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you. – James 2:8-13

Have you ever considered the concept of MERCY when discussing favoritism or the habit of judging other people? I think of mercy when I think of seeing someone in need and having pity on them, coming to their assistance. I think of mercy when I think of the need to forgive someone, regardless of whether or not they are asking for my forgiveness. But James is clearly using the concept of mercy while discussing our tendency to treat other people according to the standards WE set instead of loving them unconditionally.


Mercy is respecting where each person is coming from rather than judging or looking down on them. To truly “love your neighbor as yourself” we must stop thinking so highly of ourselves, accept each other through the eyes of our Creator, and have mercy. To truly love is to respond to someone else’s need – to go beyond accepting and put our faith into action.

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well” – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith BY my good deeds.”

You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless. – James 2:14-20

I think the key to remember in studying these verses is that we are not saved BY works, we are saved FOR works. Works should be an outflow of our faith. Mercy and love should come naturally because of the work God is doing in our lives.


For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:10

Again, mercy should be an outflow of our faith or evidence of our faith. We can fall into a SALVATION BY WORKS mentality if we are not careful. We begin to say, “I need to try harder. I need to do better. I need to produce more fruit.” The danger in this is then we can say, “Look at these good works I accomplished for God. Look at the fruit of MY labor.”

Let us not forget the first 7 verses of John chapter 15 – God is the vine and we are the branches. It is remaining in Him that changes who we are and that change is evidenced in the life we live. Fruit is then a result of our relationship with God, daily remaining in His presence and allowing Him to work through us.

Romans 12:1 – Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.

When we become a living sacrifice, we are offering ourselves to God – utterly at His disposal – willing to be consumed by Him, desiring to be transformed by Him, set apart to be used by Him. Now mercy and love are a natural part of who we are because of whose we are. Now mercy sets the standards.