James 2:6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? ESV
To fully understand James’ intent we must keep these verses in their original context. Note how James begins this topic –
James 2:1 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? ESV
Apparently James was noticing a problem occurring within the church. The rich and affluent were being favored over the poor. No doubt much of this favoritism had to do with what the church thought that the rich could offer them. Perhaps they thought that the rich would give a generous donation, or maybe they thought that having the rich in their congregation would somehow make their church look better. Yet James gives several warnings about such thinking.
First of all, James warns us that showing partiality in the church is very sinful, especially when it involves the issue of someone’s social status. Scripture teaches us that salvation is by grace through faith, and not anything of our own doing. It is a gift from God and not the result of our good works. Therefore none of us can ever boast about who we are before God.
Secondly, James reminds us that it is the poor whom God most often favors. God does not favor the poor simply because they are poor, but because they are the ones who are most often willing to receive His offer of salvation. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3 ESV
Thirdly, James reminds us that it is the affluent who are sometimes the most arrogant and self-centered. “Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?” Why are the rich sometimes arrogant and self-centered? Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 6:17 that is because they think their riches provide them security.
How should we respond to what James has taught us? Should we neglect the rich in order evangelize only the poor? Scripture teaches us that God loves ‘the world’ and that His forgiveness is available to ‘whosoever will.’ Salvation is not be based upon someone’s social status, but upon their willingness to receive Christ.