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, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. 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 is showing us today how arbitrary things can get when the Law is used to judge others. When Jesus brought in the new law, based on the new covenant he said all of the law is summed up by two laws, "Love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind. And the second is like it, "love your neighbors as yourself." So if we are to judge anyone it should be based on how they love God and their neighbor. This does not mean there are not any standards or moral laws, but that before we judge others, we need to look at where we are guilty of breaking the Law. There is no greater judgment for one Law over another. James says that if we stumble at one point, we are guilty of it all.
This is in the context of the early church's neglect of the poor. They were quick to cast judgment, but were in fact guilty as a result of neglecting to love their neighbor as themselves. It is easy to look outside ourselves when we are being judgmental, but we might want to look in the mirror before we cast a stone at our neighbor. We tend to rank the outward sins of lust, adultery, murder and stealing as more grievous that the inward sins of jealousy, pride and greed. Some of us look clean on the outside, while inward we are far from it.
So the bottom line is that we all need mercy, which God grants us freely despite our outward and inward sins. When we realize how merciful God has been to us, we are compelled to be merciful to others, which God commands. Sometimes the most judgmental people have a world of sin going on in their own lives and that is part of the reason they are so judgmental. In closing James' says, "mercy triumphs over judgment!" On the cross Jesus won victory over sin, when he took on the judgment we deserved and gave us mercy instead.