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For judgment is without mercy to him who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13)
Here James is comparing the characteristics of judgment for the unbeliever with what the believer has undergone. The key term is the Greek verb (ποιέω poieō), which has the sense of carrying out the action, that is, exhibiting or demonstrating, or manifesting mercy. The Christian who does not show mercy fails to care for another human being, which is even more egregious if that person lives in poverty. James makes it all too clear that any Christian who looks to downplay the message of this verse is only subjecting himself to severe judgment. Any Christian who fails to evidence their living faith will be judged even more harshly than they judged. Those Christians walking through life as though their Christian personality does not reflect the moral, noble, decent, humane, upright values of God’s Word are not genuine Christians and are subject to harsh judgment in the end. (Matt. 24:13) James’ following words mercy triumphs over judgment (κατακαυχᾶται ἔλεος κρίσεως katakauchatai elos kriseos) is making an emphatic point. The verb (κατακαυχάομαι katakauchaomai) generally refers to boasting over one’s achievements, but here has the of having more power over, conquering, or being victorious to boast over merciful actions but not in an arrogant way.
James awakens his readers to just how dangerous a judgmental attitude is, as he shows them the peril in which they are placing themselves by showing favoritism. (Rom. 2:6, 16; 14:12; Matt. 12:36) Reasonably and logically, how could these believers expect that God would show them mercy when they were guilty of withholding mercy on those who were ‘poor in filthy clothing’? (Jam. 2:2) What a contrast here. James is writing to a group of Christians made up of the lowly ones and those who were discriminating against such ones! Can we imagine the emotional turmoil of a poor believer who was visiting another congregation and was treated as if he were inconsequential? Wise King Solomon was inspired to write, “Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.” (Prov. 21:13) 2 Sam. 22:26-27, “With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless.” (Comp. Ps. 18:25, 26; Matt. 6:15; 7:1-2) Jesus gave a convincing illustration that made just this point in Matthew 18:23-35. Jesus explicitly said,
Matthew 7:1-2 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
7 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 For with the judgment you are judging you will be judged, and by what measure you are measuring, it will be measured to you.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matt. 5:7) Imagine a young man who went on robbing the elderly. Now picture him mercilessly beating them first before taking their money, when they never posed any threat to him. If we were in a human courtroom with a judge of perfect justice, we would see him never hand out mercy to a defendant who failed to show mercy to his victims. However, although our analogy helps us see the point, James is not talking about someone breaking the Mosaic Law or the law of any land. James is speaking about judging by “the law of liberty.” A born-again Christian should possess a mind and heart of mercy by the Spirit of God, by his faith life, and thus would naturally show mercy to others. Because of his showing others mercy, he will be shown mercy by God when he is judged. For this reason, this merciful Christian does not live his life fearing how God will view him in the end. He knows that God is the epitome of mercy, and it will be reciprocated. We have an excellent example of this in Scripture, where God had shown mercy to King David, who had been merciful in his past dealings with others. – 2 Samuel 12:13, 14; 22:24-27; Psalm 18:23-26
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