Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.James 2:12-13 NIV
The first half of this second chapter of James deals with showing favoritism. In particular within the context of church gatherings. It would have been tempting to show preferential treatment to those that their society considered as powerful. It seems natural to show diffidence to the influential among us. Especially since it may be to our benefit to do so.
By way of example, James introduces two characters. One is a man in fine clothes, so probably wealthy. The other is a poor man in filthy clothes. When the church is gathered, and these two come in, it would be tempting to give the man in good clothes the best seat and relegate the other man to the floor. But James says that when we do that, we become judges with evil thoughts. We sin against our brother.
It is not just a person’s clothes that might cause us to judge another, or to show favoritism. It might be the color of their skin; how much of their skin is covered with tattoos; the color and style of their hair; or the way they smell. Most of us, if we are willing to admit it, probably have a tendency to show favoritism to some people over others. It is natural for us to prefer those who are most like us. Or, maybe, most like what we wish we were.
But James calls on us to show mercy rather than judge by appearances. To love our neighbor as ourselves. Not just those who are like us. But everyone we come in contact with. Treat them as people created and loved by God. Show mercy to them, rather than judgment. James warns us that if we are not merciful to others, we are in danger of not receiving mercy from God. In the end, mercy triumphs over judgment.