What Does James Mean By The Royal Law?

We pick up our study today in James 2: 8

8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ”Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, ”Do not commit adultery,” also said, ”Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

James 2:8-11 NIV

What does James mean by “loyal law”? This law is found in Leviticus19:18 in the Old Testament where God is giving the laws to Moses.

…”but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

Leviticus 19:18 NIV

Jesus was a descendent of King David and the Messiah in God’s kingdom. I don’t think you can get more royal than that. This Old Testament command was elevated to the ”greatest command”.

Favoritism rejects the command to love everyone as yourself. Jesus is asked:

“Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

”The most important one,” answered Jesus, ”is this: ’Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12: 28-31

Showing favoritism to the rich shows that I don’t love the poor as deeply as I love myself. Breaking God’s law makes us lawbreakers. The same principle applies to ”royal love”. Not to love – which is what favoritism amounts to – turns it’s back on the entire will of God.

The test of the strength of our Christianity is how we treat our neighbors. The test of true faith for followers of Jesus: obedience of his royal command, ”love your neighbor as yourself.”

12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!

James 2: 12-13

If we choose to put one person above another, we have failed to show mercy. Therefore, we would be judged without mercy. The takeaway here is ”Mercy triumphs over judgment” and we would do well to write it on our hearts. This Scripture has made an impact on me and deserves some introspection. Maybe some meditation is in my future on the topic.

Are you enjoying this study of James? Feel free to share your take on this book as well.

In Faith,


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