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have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges of evil thoughts? (James 2:4)
The not (οὐ ou) tells us that the question is rhetorical, which means that it requires a positive answer: “Yes, you have made distinctions.” Or “You show that you are partial.” The Greek verb (διακρίνω diakrinō) has at least six different possible meanings depending on the context, one meaning already used in James is to doubt, be uncertain (Rom. 14:23; Ac 10:20; Jas 1:6; Jude 22), which does not fit this context. Instead, James means to make a distinction, to distinguish that there is a difference, mark something as different from something else. Peter H. Davids writes, “Becoming judges requires some activity, and thus the sense “discriminate” or “make a distinction” is intended.” -Jin Loh and Howard Hatton offer, “James is condemning the partiality and prejudice of his readers. They are rebuked for this behavior on two counts: first, they create distinctions; secondly, they become judges with evil motives.” The problem with judging is that it is never based on the internal nature of the heart but is most often based on the external appearance of an individual.
James goes on to say that they become judges with evil thoughts. The Greek term (διαλογισμός dialogismos) can refer to the content of what someone is thinking, what is reasoned, (Mt 15:19; Mk 7:21; Lk 2:35; 5:22; 6:8; 9:47; Jas 2:4), but also the external content what someone says, dispute, argument (Lk 9:46; Ro 14:1; Php 2:14; 1Ti 2:8). James is likely referring to both here. The adjective “evil” (πονηρός ponēros), which refers to what is morally bad or wrong. Thus, James clarifies that their way of thinking and acting are wicked, evil, bad, wrong, and morally corrupt. The Christians have become hostile, wicked judges. When people judge, assumptions about another are based on the outer person they perceive them to be. They discriminate among themselves as to who is worthy and who is not, based on one’s appearance. The standard by which they decide the truth about an individual is based on their personal assumption. God looks at the heart to make a decision about the character or quality of a person. (1 Sam. 16:7) When a mere man judges based on assumptions, it is based on externals. Whether the difference concerns wealth, social status, political status, education, profession, race, or language, there is no reason for favoritism. We as Christians must decide who would be a good associate or even friend for ourselves and our children. This is not only based on outward appearances but also on the character, qualities, and values of the person. As Paul tells us, “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Cor. 15:33) So, there is a significant difference in objectively considering the benefit of association or friendship with another and acting like an evil-minded, prejudiced judge, assuming the character and quality based on false assumptions.
 Peter H. Davids, The Epistle of James: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982), 110.
 I-Jin Loh and Howard Hatton, A Handbook on the Letter from James, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1997), 65.