James – Thursday, March 19
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. 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!
Here, James refers directly to Christ’s teachings from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-30).
In that sermon, Jesus interprets the law as it had been intended by God to be understood. Whereas the Pharisees interpreted the law as it related to external behavior only, Jesus interpreted it as it related to the cause of actions. In other words, He dealt with heart issues. The cause of physical adultery is adultery in the heart (driven by lust). The cause of actual murder is hatred and anger within.
Rather than making us righteous, the law only serves to condemn us. It points out our sin. Even one offense (against the law) makes one a lawbreaker. Thus, all are guilty!
The Lord points out our sin to us in very clear terms; but He doesn’t do it to condemn us, but to actually free us. The law was our tutor, to lead us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). Coming to Christ, we are free from the guilt and power of sin.
Eventually, we’ll be free from sin’s presence as well.
God leans more toward mercy than He does toward judgment. The very first part of His own self-description is that He is merciful and gracious (Exodus 34:6). This is why He is so patient with human beings. It’s His nature to be like that.
Daily Devotional Book • James Application Questions
1. What do you think is the difference between trying to live for God under law vs. living for Him under grace?
2. We are told to speak and live as those who will be judged by the law of liberty (i.e., the law of freedom, Romans 8:1-4). How does the law of freedom affect the way we talk and the way we act?
3. What do you do when the law points out sin in your life? What should you do? (See Proverbs 28:13 and 1 John 1:9 for the Biblical answer.)