What Does James 2:13 Mean?

For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

James 2:13(NASB)

Verse of the Day

The second chapter of James confirms an important Christian principle that Jesus established in His Sermon on the Mount - mercy will be extended to those that show mercy, while the merciless man will face God's judgement. Jesus explained this truth to his audience in Matthew: "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy." James expresses the same principle from the opposing position: "For the one who has shown no mercy will be judged without mercy," he writes - and continues, "Mercy triumphs over judgment." While James is specifically addressing believers over discriminating against their neighbour, he is delivering a biblical principle that applies to both the saved and the unsaved.

James approached his teaching about mercy from the standpoint of human partiality, where a man judges another to be worthy or unworthy because of his outward appearances, financial status, educational prowess, charismatic qualities, political views, or some other humanly acceptable attribute. The Bible, however, clearly teaches that God is no respecter of persons. God does not show partiality because of some outward characteristic and neither should His children.

The Lord does not demonstrate any bias towards or against a man because of his outward appearance or magnetic personality. He does not favour someone on the basis of their privileged status nor does He show disfavour because of a man's lack, and neither should we. Hosea reminds us that the Lord desires mercy from His people and our attitude towards others should reflect the beautiful characteristic of mercy, forbearance, tender-heartedness, and kindness that the Lord has shown to us.

It is important to note that mercy is the quality about which James is warning when he states that the merciless will be shown no mercy. The judgement being made in this passage is not connected with salvation. Jesus did not say blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain salvation, nor is James implying that believers that demonstrate a lack of mercy will lose their salvation. Salvation is not gained by the one who is merciful and salvation is not lost when someone lacks mercy. Salvation is a free gift of God's grace to all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Non-judgemental mercy is a godly quality in which the Lord delights, and every believer should seek to be merciful. And although it is not listed as a fruit of the spirit in Galatians, it is a very close sister to many of the godly qualities recorded there. While those that are merciful will receive mercy, this verse is a sombre reminder that those who lack mercy, by exhibiting prejudice against their fellow man and discriminating against their neighbour, will have no mercy shown to them.

God will punish the unmerciful man unmercifully. His judgement will be merciless against the one who does not show kindness to his fellow man or discriminates against his neighbour. To the one who has shown no mercy towards others i.e. the one who has demonstrated partiality, will not have God's mercy extended towards him. God is impartial. His judgement is equally extended towards an unmerciful believer as it is towards an unmerciful unbeliever. A Christian who shows no mercy towards others will not lose his salvation, but will be judged by God and suffer loss of reward in the ages to come, as Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 3. How important, therefore, to not only rejoice in Christ's beatitude in Matthew - blessed are the merciful  - but also to heed James' warning of the consequences that the unmerciful face.

Just as light triumphs over darkness and good triumphs over evil, so mercy triumphs over judgement. As believers, we are not saved by our works, or our words - we are not saved because we are impartial towards others and show them mercy. We will, one day, be judged by our words, our works, our spiritual fruit, and our behaviour towards our fellow man.

May we be those that seek to be holy, knowing that God is holy. May we grow in grace and in a knowledge of our Lord and Saviour so that we may become more like Jesus Who is full of compassion and of great mercy. May we be men and women who triumph over the old sin nature, with its judgemental tendencies and its propensity to discriminate against others that do not fit with our fallen sin nature. May we walk in spirit and truth so that we may extend mercy to all with whom we come in contact - for the glory of God and for our eternal benefit.

May we demonstrate a compassionate spirit towards all people and avoid any semblance of unmerciful favouritism, knowing that when we stand before Him at the Bema judgement seat of Christ we will not be ashamed.

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your loving mercy toward me in that while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me. As I go about my days in this world that is full of so many judgemental attitudes and actions, may I show forth Your love and mercy to those around me so that they would see Christ in me, to Your praise and glory. In Jesus' name, AMEN.

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