“Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?” (James 2:5, ESV)
James wrote this letter to a group of Christians who were behaving in a unChrist-like manner. This group was showing favoritism towards the rich while ignoring the needs of the poor. They were not showing mercy, love and compassion towards fellow Christians. They were taking the poor to court instead of forgiving them. They were acting as if their faith did not have to be accompanied by deeds of love, self-sacrifice and kindness. They were acting as if they were above reproach simply because of their wealth and high social status. They maintained that the mere profession of faith was enough. As long as you said Jesus is Lord, if you were baptized into His Name, you could still live like the rest of the world, still act according to the standards of the surrounding culture, still be selfish and unkind.
Yet James tells us that a mere profession of faith is not enough. Without a humble heart, a life expressing itself in deeds of love and kindness, there is no evidence of real faith at all. We could be baptized, profess all the right theology and say all the right words but if we harbor hatred, condemnation, a divisive spirit, feelings of ill-will, vengeance and unforgiveness, if we withhold mercy, if we do not do works flowing out from our faith, then that faith is dead. After all, the Kingdom of God is not made up of people who are rich and self-assured, but the poor, the downtrodden, the helpless, all those who know they are sinners and in need of the grace, mercy and kindness of God. We should remember that as interact with our fellow Christians and as we reach out to the lost in our community.