James 2:8-13

8 If, however, you are fulfilling the [a]royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the [b]law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. 11 For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Now if you do Not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown No mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

James 2:10 pertains to breaking the law as viewed from a holistic perspective. James 2:10 is "binary" in the sense that it is:

  • 1 or 0

  • Glass is broken Or glass is Not broken. ( Broken does Not indicate if glass is slightly fragmented Or extremely fragmented. Broken does Not indicate if glass is slightly splintered Or extremely shattered. )

  • Door/Window is Open or Closed. ( A Door/Window being Open does Not indicate if door is slightly ajar Or "Wide Open"(for lack of a better phrase) )

  • All or Nothing

In other words, James 2:10 does Not pertain to the severity of different sins ( James 2:10 has Nothing to do with degrees of seriousness of different sins ).

Is the aforementioned evaluation/assessment correct?

  • 1
    This is unrelated to the degree of sins. Surely there are sins leading to death and some not. He is only saying that you cannot be selective with the commands, being lax in some of them. They are being careless with the law of God with their licentious faith alone heresy, forgetting the requirement of commands.
    – Michael16
    May 24, 2021 at 2:33
  • 1
    If you lie to the host and say that the meal tasted good although it was a bit bland you are dishonest, but kind. However, you are not a murderer. But if you lie and say that it is safe to drive to xyz, although you knew the bridge was severely damaged by the hurricane, you would be a murderer. May 28, 2021 at 12:14
  • 1
    In min 10:31, Dr. Stanley Toussaint agrees with that assesment «He's not saying that all sins are equal». Jul 30, 2021 at 16:16
  • @tiago-martins-peres-李大仁 Thanks. I'll try to listen to the youtube.com/watch?v=DOrhexFP-eQ video link later. I'm interested in bible verses and hermeneutics-related articles related to severity of sins and all or nothing related verses about sin like James 2:10. if you have anymore reference web links then please post them in the comments. Jul 30, 2021 at 16:22
  • 1
    @crazyTech beware he doesn't dwell into that topic though. He does give a space which sounded as if he was waiting for questions but no questions were asked unfortunately... Jul 30, 2021 at 16:33

1 Answer 1


Does James 2:10 pertain to breaking the whole law while ignoring sin's degrees of severity?

Answer: Your thesis appears correct. The passage from James is irrelevant to any consideration of severity because all sin demands eternal death.

While we might distinguish between a lie and murder, the latter being much worse than the former, such is not the case with God. What we fail to appreciate is that God is an absolutely holy, majestically perfect Being. He can never tolerate sin or imperfection in His Presence.

It makes no difference how small an infraction we think we have committed. When we violate the least commandment of the "Royal Law" or the "Law of Liberty" we have broken the whole of the Christian faith. James is merely reiterating that which Christ pronounced in Matthew's Gospel (5:19). Much of what James writes pertains to the theme of "perfection in Christ."

Most of us know that we cannot, of ourselves, ever attain this perfected state. It requires the blood of Christ to cleanse us, and that is what He does through prayerful repentance and obedience:

1 John 1:7, 9: "[If] we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

By cleansing us of all sin, and all unrighteousness, we are made perfect. We do this as we reach to God, and He reaches down to pull us up to Him — but only as we obey Christ's commandments. As author and scholar, James Coffman, once wrote:

[This demonstrates] that even Christians who earnestly strive to do the will of Christ are nevertheless not able to attain any acceptable degree of perfection in their own right. The proper respect for this truth will have the practical effect of driving every man to Jesus Christ, in whom alone the perfection required by Almighty God (Matthew 5:48; Colossians 1:28) may be received through God's grace.

As mentioned in the OP, this is "an all-or-nothing" proposition. If someone breaks part of a piece of glass, they have broken the whole; if they snap a link in a chain, they have broken that chain, etc. There are no half-measures in Christ.

What many fail to appreciate is there are many commandments of Christ which are violated when we ignore them, such as baptism, the command to assemble on the first day of the week (Sunday) for worship, the command to partake in the Lord's supper, and so forth. Disobeying or ignoring these vital imperatives makes us lawbreakers. Here, we might consider the consequences for violating these commands in Matthew:

Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’"

These are profoundly sobering words. Even those who prophesied, cast out demons, and performed many miracles — all in the name of Christ, have fallen woefully short only to be condemned! We must, therefore, pay attention to the smaller things that some of us might overlook or ignore as "unimportant." This is what James is relating to us in James 2:10.

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