James 2:10: Guilty of the Whole Law

Whoever keeps the whole Law, yet offends in one point, he is guilty of all. – James 2:10

Okay, I promised that I’d put up a second blog today on what James 2:10 means (rather than what it doesn’t mean).

This is one of the verses where context is important.

Context is not always important, you know. “A text without a context is a pretext” is not a true saying when it comes to the Scriptures.

We all use Isaiah 7:14 out of context–and even out of the original language–as a prophecy of the virgin birth. The writer of Hebrews constantly pulled verses out of context. Paul did, too.

That’s how prophecy works. It’s spiritual.

James is talking in the verses leading up to 2:10 about preferential treatment being given to persons of stature, specifically rich people. Such behavior infuriated Jesus. His most explosive tirade is after a talking about how the scribes and Pharisees love position, honor, and titles.

Most of us, however, excuse those sort of sins. Adultery is terrible, murder is even worse, but a little bit of preferential treatment; hey, no big deal.

James is saying, oh, yes, it’s a big deal. Don’t think you’re better than a murderer. You’re a breaker of the Law, just like them.

No Excuses

Do you want to follow God? You’d better get used to cold, blunt honesty.

God doesn’t like to beat around the bush. He doesn’t say “shy.” He says “coward,” and he says your cowardice will keep you out of the kingdom. He includes us shy people–yes, people like me–with the unbelieving, abominable, murderers, and idolaters (Rev. 21:8).

In fact, he lists us first.

I decided I’d better get over being shy.

“I’m shy,” you say. Yeah, well, you have a number of brothers that, left to their own, would want to sleep with your daughter or wife. That’s just the way they are!

I’ll bet you’re grateful they’ve decided that’s no excuse to do such a thing.

Jesus expects you to get over being shy because if you don’t stand up for him before men, he won’t stand up for you before God. And you’ll be cast into the lake of fire.

Doing the Hard Stuff

The fact is, it’s often easy to get over the desire to sleep with someone else’s spouse. The idea is repulsive to us.

If repugnant, awful desires like that rise up in us, we abhor ourselves and drive such thoughts away.

But if I’m shy? A little quick-tempered? Not polite by nature? Don’t tend to think about others? Hey, that’s just the way I am!

Outside the gates of the city are those who thought that only murderers and adulterers would be outside the gates. Outside the gates are those that thought they were more righteous than those other sinners and that they didn’t need to repent for the minor evils they did.

We need to hear that because most of the time it’s those minor things that are the hardest for us to repent of.

We say that it’s just the way we are.

Exactly. Be different!!

Repent, obtain the grace of God. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God so that he may exalt you in due time. Confess your faults to your brothers or sisters and confess your sins before God so that God can give you grace and your brothers and sisters can pray for you.

Oh, did you think that only that awful adulterer over there had to lament, mourn, and weep?

Majoring on the Minors

James, the apostle and Lord’s brother, spends his time majoring on the things we call minor.

And that’s what James 2:10 means.

Stop calling your preferential treatment of people minor. Actually, what’s worse, stop calling your ill treatment of people who are “beneath” you minor.

God will send you to hell for not taking care of the least of these.


Your tongue (Jam. 3). Your desires for worldly friends and possessions (Jam. 4). Your jealousies (Jam. 4). Even your happy-go-lucky attitude! (4:13-16). James calls it “evil”!

All of a sudden there’s some work to do, isn’t there?

If you’ll excuse me, I need to go lament and mourn and weep.

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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2 Responses to James 2:10: Guilty of the Whole Law

  1. Shammah says:

    Yes, of course. I have my share of difficulties and temptations, but I’m not prone to writing things flippantly on the web; at least I sure hope not.

    Charles Finney once wrote a book called Lectures on Revival (I think that’s the right one) that requires the reader to thoroughly confess and repent before reading past chapter two. I did that for three hours (20 years ago). It made a big impact on me; never forgot it.

    What’s interesting is that the exact same thing happened to Keith Green when he read it. Only he did his confessing and repenting in the middle of the night. It made such an impact on him that he woke up everyone in the house (which was about 20 people, if I remember his biography, No Compromise, correctly) to tell them that he just got saved!

    So, yeah, that was a serious statement I made, not a joke.

  2. Eliel says:

    Dear Shammah,
    I read your postings from time to time and I had a question to ask you on this one…….your last line states that you needed to go lament, weep and mourn…..did you actually go and do that?…..feel free to not post this or even answer privately…. my memories of you are that you seek Yahweh and desire truth…. sometimes more fervantly than other times…..this is an ernest question and I am open to any response about this or any other subect, thx Eliel

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