The Letter of James 2:10
"For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it."
(1) Some would say; "This proves that God never meant us to keep the Commandments."
That we cannot keep them even with His grace!
That we cannot be holy.
(2) They also use this verse to prove that there is no distinction between Mortal and
Venial Sins, some would call them "big" and "little" sins.
Question: Is that what God is saying here?
Answer: NO! ["you can be his [sins] master." Genesis 4:7]
FIRST: We need to start by taking this section in context with the whole of chapters 1 & 2.
St. James is telling the believers that they must live the "law of liberty".
What is this "new" law?
Go back to v. 25; the only "perfect law" we have is God's Law, Luke 10:27 He said in
reply, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all
your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself."
St. James is saying; each and every commandment of the Law of God is an expression of
His Will. Therefore, any sin - even if it is against only one precept - is always an offense
against God. And if the sin is a Grave Sin, it destroys the virtue of charity and the
supernatural life of grace. In other words it [the sin] destroys our "best or perfect
connection with God".
Think about this...
If God is Love [1 Jn. 4:8, 16], as we know that He is, then our best "connection" to God is
to live in Love. When we "live outside of Love" through sin, we disconnect ourselves from
God! St. James is saying that when we sin and it "reaches maturity it gives birth to death"
[James 1:15]. That "death" is our life, our "connection", if you will, with God. Remember,
God does not
disconnect from us, it is us who disconnect ourselves from God by our "Free Will".
When explaining this point St. Augustine reminds us that charity is the fullness of the law
(cf. Romans 13:9ff); The Law and the Prophets are grounded on charity in its two
dimensions of love of God and of neighbor (cf. Mt. 22:34-40).
"And no one love his neighbor," he goes on, "unless he loves God and tries his best to
get that neighbor (whom he loves as himself) to love God too. If he does not love God,
then he does not love himself, nor does he love his neighbor. That is why whoever would
keep the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it, for he has acted
against charity, on which the whole law depends. One becomes guilty of all the
one sins against that (virtue) from which they all derive" (Letter 167, 5, 16).
St. James is saying to be perfect we have to persevere in Love. When we do we will lack
nothing [James 1:4; 2:8].
Couple St. James with St. Augustine and we can see that perfection/holiness/salvation is
acomplished through Love=God.
SECOND: St. James could not be telling us here that there is no such thing as a
separation in sin. Because in 1:15, he tells us; "Then desire conceives and brings forth
sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death." [NAB]
"Here we see St. James talking about - "desire" (concupiscence or the "flesh" as St. Paul
talks about it, cf. Romans 8) which when it "conceives and brings forth sin", and this "level"
of sin - although it is sin - when it is "reaches maturity" it causes death of the soul.
Some would say; "James is saying here that since all sin is the same v. 10, and we
cannot" even with God's Grace" keep all the Commandments, we cannot be holy!
ACTUALLY, WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE IS THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE of what those
outside the Catholic Church are saying! St. James is telling us to be "perfect" in v. 4!
St. James is saying that we need - with the Grace that God gives for the asking - "who
gives to all men generously" v. 5, - to live the "Law of love" v. 25, - "be doers of the word"
v. 22! He is saying in vv. 2-12 that when we are tempted and "endure the trial', we "will
receive the crown of " life." If we succumb to sin v. 15, eventually comes "death".
In vv. 2-4, he tells us to "Count it all joy, my bretheren, when you meet various trials, for
you know that testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its
full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
Rather than telling us it is useless to try not to sin, St. James is repeating what Jesus and
(later). St. Peter and the Catholic Church today continues to tell us!
"But as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written,
"You shall be holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, "You shall be
holy, for I am Holy." [1 Peter 1:15-16; Lev. 11:44-45;v Mt. 5:48].
St. Paul in Romans 8:2; "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free
from the law of sin and death." LOOK at 7:19, St. Paul is doing the same thing that St.
James is doing. Showing us that in Christ we can live lives; "holy and acceptable to God,"
What God has been telling mankind from the "beginning". That we can be the "master" of
Genesis 4:6 So the LORD said to Cain: "Why are you so resentful and crestfallen? 7 If
you do well, you can hold up your head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door: his
urge is toward you, yet you can be his master."
A loving God, would not tell His people to be Holy and to conquer sin if conquering sin was
not possible. He would not tell us to life a life of love, if living said life were unattainable.
Happy Valentine's Day!
This is "True Love" to Live the Royal Law... the Law of Love!