James 2:10-11 – “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.”
There’s a line of reasoning that says since we can’t keep the law perfectly then we shouldn’t even try. But that’s like saying, “I just noticed I was coveting. Since I’m not perfect, I might as well murder and steal also.” It doesn’t sound reasonable when specific sins are mentioned.
We need only keep reading to see the takeaway James intended.
“For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:10-13)
James is urging followers of Jesus to be merciful. He does this by pointing out that we are all transgressors who would not want to be judged without mercy. Instead, we would rather be judged under the law of liberty that says everyone in Christ will receive mercy. We would rather our record of debt be cancelled.
David made the same point when pleading for mercy.
“A Psalm of David. Hear my prayer, O LORD; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness! Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.” (Psalms 143:1-2)
Jesus also called us to mercy.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)
“and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12 and see also 11:4)
“Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.‘ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13)
“And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.” (Matthew 12:7)
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23)
“Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37)