If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
James is about to take a serious turn with his dialogue here. He has been talking about the wrongness of partiality towards people using invalid criteria. Now he is going to illustrate precisely just how serious this issue is. We may come back to this passage in more detail in later devotionals, but for now we are going to just look at the basic meaning of what James seems to be teaching us.
James, as usual, just calls it as he sees it; more precisely he calls it like God sees it. Showing partiality to others is more than just bad judgment or an error in our ways. Showing partiality to others is, in fact, sin and transgression. That is serious business.
James takes Jesus’ teaching on the totality of the law and uses it for our illustration. We all know that teaching. We must first love God with our all, then others as we love ourselves. If we do that we will essentially be doing all things God would desire that we do. All other law flows from those two thoughts. If we do those two, the rest will follow naturally. If we do not do those two, then it is not possible for us to do the rest.
James clearly, literally says to be a respecter of persons is transgression. He also points out that adultery and murder is transgression. The final link is pointing out that even one tiny transgression of God’s law makes us guilty of transgressing all; that is very interesting. What is James saying?
Remember that, “All have sinned and come short of the Glory of God?” In the eyes of God, being partial or unfair to others is every bit as serious as committing murder or adultery. That should remove all doubt as to the seriousness of this offense.