Martin Luther is well known not to have like James’ epistle very much — he considered it a “right straw-y epistle” comparing its importance in the canon to the importance of the straw in the manger in the Incarnation. James’ epistle insists on the value of “works” with which Luther and all readers of scripture post-Luther have such difficulty.
It is clear in reading James that the righteousness in view is a corporate righteouness, not an individual righteousness, which is what vexed Luther so. We are the assembly, “over which the noble name has been invoked,” and we had better behave worthily of that name. If we show partiality, we have become double minded, both individually and as a community, making evil distinctions. What gives most of us fits in reading James is that it is not in the least sentimental, but gets right down to brass tacks.
Which christian community doesn’t make distinctions on the basis of who pledges what (especially when starting a capital campaign!)? It’s not clear in this passage whether the person in fine clothes and golden rings, and the poor person in dirty clothes are members of the assembly, or new-comers, and it doesn’t matter. We make distinctions anyway.
If we can be permitted t0 link the poor person in James to the voiceless and speechless boy in Mark, it makes sense that this kind come out only by prayer. As a community, we have to be exceedingly careful in our prayer to make sure we seat the beggar exactly as high as the benefactor. Only prayer will take us out of the world of influence into the world of the royal law of love of neighbor without partiality.