James 2:3
And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:
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(3) And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing (or, bright apparel).—Look on him, that is, because of his fine appearance, with undue respect and consideration.

And say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place (or, as margin, well); and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool.—The sidesman or elder in charge of the church finds a stall for the person of substantial presence, while anything does for the poor one; but—most considerate offer—he can stand; or, if he prefer it, sit under the great man’s footstool, lower down, that is, on the floor beneath. We know Christ’s words for those who loved of old “the chief seats in the synagogues” (Matthew 23:6), nor can there be doubt as to their full application now. What is to be urged in excuse for the special pews in churches and chapels, hired and appropriated, furnished luxuriously, and secured by bolt and lock? If in the high places sit the men and women in goodly raiment still, while the poorly clad are crowded into side benches and corners, or beneficently told to stand and wait till room be found somewhere beneath the daintier feet,—how can there be escape from condemnation on the charge which follows?—namely this—

2:1-13 Those who profess faith in Christ as the Lord of glory, must not respect persons on account of mere outward circumstances and appearances, in a manner not agreeing with their profession of being disciples of the lowly Jesus. St. James does not here encourage rudeness or disorder: civil respect must be paid; but never such as to influence the proceedings of Christians in disposing of the offices of the church of Christ, or in passing the censures of the church, or in any matter of religion. Questioning ourselves is of great use in every part of the holy life. Let us be more frequent in this, and in every thing take occasion to discourse with our souls. As places of worship cannot be built or maintained without expense, it may be proper that those who contribute thereto should be accommodated accordingly; but were all persons more spiritually-minded, the poor would be treated with more attention that usually is the case in worshipping congregations. A lowly state is most favourable for inward peace and for growth in holiness. God would give to all believers riches and honours of this world, if these would do them good, seeing that he has chosen them to be rich in faith, and made them heirs of his kingdom, which he promised to bestow on all who love him. Consider how often riches lead to vice and mischief, and what great reproaches are thrown upon God and religion, by men of wealth, power, and worldly greatness; and it will make this sin appear very sinful and foolish. The Scripture gives as a law, to love our neighbour as ourselves. This law is a royal law, it comes from the King of kings; and if Christians act unjustly, they are convicted by the law as transgressors. To think that our good deeds will atone for our bad deeds, plainly puts us upon looking for another atonement. According to the covenant of works, one breach of any one command brings a man under condemnation, from which no obedience, past, present, or future, can deliver him. This shows us the happiness of those that are in Christ. We may serve him without slavish fear. God's restraints are not a bondage, but our own corruptions are so. The doom passed upon impenitent sinners at last, will be judgment without mercy. But God deems it his glory and joy, to pardon and bless those who might justly be condemned at his tribunal; and his grace teaches those who partake of his mercy, to copy it in their conduct.And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing - If you show him superior attention on account of his rich and gay apparel, giving him a seat by himself, and treating others with neglect or contempt. Religion does not forbid proper respect to rank, to office, to age, or to distinguished talents and services, though even in such cases it does not require that we should feel that such persons have any peculiar claims to salvation, or that they are not on a level with all others, as sinners before God; it does not forbid that a man who has the means of procuring for himself an eligible pew in a church should be permitted to do so; but it requires that men shall be regarded and treated according to their moral worth, and not according to their external adorning; that all shall be considered as in fact on a level before God, and entitled to the privileges which grow out of the worship of the Creator. A stranger coming into any place of worship, no matter what his rank, dress, or complexion, should be treated with respect, and everything should be done that can be to win his heart to the service of God.

And say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place - Margin, as in Greek, "well" or "seemly;" that is, in an honorable place near the pulpit; or in some elevated place where he would be conspicuous. The meaning is, you treat him with distinguished marks of respect on the first appearance, merely from the indications that he is a rich man, without knowing any thing about his character.

And say to the poor, Stand thou there - Without even the civility of offering him a seat at all. This may be presumed not often to occur in a Christian church; yet it practically does sometimes, when no disposition is evinced to furnish a stranger with a seat.

Or sit here under my footstool - Perhaps some seats in the places of worship were raised, so that even the footstool would be elevated above a lower seat. The meaning is, that he would be treated as if he were not worth the least attention.

3. have respect to him, &c.—though ye know not who he is, when perhaps he may be a heathen. It was the office of the deacons to direct to a seat the members of the congregation [Clement of Rome, Apostolical Constitutions, 2.57, 58].

unto him—not in the best manuscripts. Thus "thou" becomes more demonstratively emphatic.

there—at a distance from where the good seats are.

here—near the speaker.

under my footstool—not literally so; but on the ground, down by my footstool. The poor man must either stand, or if he sits, sit in a degrading position. The speaker has a footstool as well as a good seat.

And ye have respect to him; Greek, look upon, viz. with respect and veneration, or a care and concern to please him.

Sit thou here in a good place; an honourable place, either contrary to the usual orders of the churches, according to which, (as some say) the elder sat in chairs, the next to them on benches; and the novices on the pavement at their feet; the apostle taxing their carnal partiality in disposing these places to the people as rich, not as Christians; or it may note their disposing church offices to them that were rich, or favouring them in their causes rather than the poor.

Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool; the meanest places, and belonging to the youngest disciples: both are expressions of contempt.

And ye have respect to him that wears the gay clothing,.... Take notice of him, and show favour to him, to the neglect and contempt of the other. This is an instance of respect of persons condemned and dissuaded from:

and say unto him, sit thou here in a good place; the best place; whether it be in a religious assembly, or in a civil court of judicature:

and say to the poor, stand thou there; or in a lower and meaner place:

or sit thou here under my footstool; this also was contrary to the Jewish canons (t), that one should sit, and another stand, while their cause was trying; the law runs thus:

"one shall not sit, and another stand, but both shall stand; but if the sanhedrim, or court, please to let them sit, they sit; but one does not sit above, and the other below; but one by the side of the other.''

(t) Maimon. ib. sect. 3. vid. T. Bab. Shebuot, fol. 30. 1.

And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a {b} good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:

(b) In a worshipful and honourable place.

Jam 2:3 describes the conduct of the church toward the two incomers. Many ancient expositors understand this as a figurative representation of the preference which was generally given in the congregation to the rich; this is arbitrary. The whole description points rather to something which James has actually in view; but in reprimanding this, he condemns partiality generally, which certainly showed itself in many other ways. By the descriptive words ἐπιβλέψητετὴν λαμπράν, which precede εἴπητε (in reference to the poor there is only εἴπητε), is indicated in a lively manner the admiring look at the external glitter; ἐπιβλέπειν, emphatice sumendum est (Pott); the rich man is characteristically described as ὁ φορῶν τὴν ἐσθ. τ. λαμπράν; the splendid garment is that which attracts the eye, the character of the man is entirely overlooked; φορεῖν, a secondary form of φέρειν, is also in Matthew 11:8 used of garments; by the article before λαμπράν this idea is strengthened as the chief idea.

The contrast is sharply expressed in the different address to the one and to the other; already they are distinguished from one another by σὺσύ, and then κάθου and στῆθει, ὧδε and ἐκεῖ, καλῶς and ὑπὸ τὸ ὑποπόδιόν μου, are opposed. The form κάθου (instead of κάθησο) is foreign to classical Greek; see Winer, p. 75 [E. T. 98].

καλῶς refers to comfort (Wiesinger); it is not = honorifice (Wahl); and still less is it to be resolved into “Be so good as” (Storr). A place is pointed out to the rich man, where he can be comfortably seated, whilst to the poor man it is said stand there. The second clause, separated from the first by , is not a special address, but the two clauses form one saying, whilst after a thought is to be supplied, as “If thou wilt rather sit;” by the addition of these words the depreciation of the poor is yet more strongly marked.

ὑπὸ τὸ ὑποπόδιον] means not under, but below my footstool (Wiesinger), by which the floor is pointed out as the fitting place for the poor to sit (Bouman). “The expression involves contempt: as it were under one’s feet. Not on the footstool” (Lange). The word ὑποπόδιον (not unicum, as Wiesinger asserts) belongs only to the later classics. Often in N. T., and also in LXX.

Jam 2:3. ἐπιβλέψητε: “look upon with admiration,” the exact force of the word is conditioned by the context; it quite expresses the Hebrew פנה אל, the meaning of which varies according to the context, e.g., in Psalm 25:16 (Sept. Psa 24:16) it is “to look graciously,” in Deuteronomy 9:27, “to look sternly”.—σὺ κάθου ὦδε καλῶς: the reference is to the kind of seat rather than to its position; chairs, or something corresponding to these, were provided for the elders and scribes (cf. Matthew 23:6; Mark 12:39; Luke 11:43), and would no doubt have been offered to persons of rank who might enter, while the poorer men would sit on the floor, which is indeed clearly implied by the words ὑπὸ τὸ ὑποπόδιόν μου. The official who directed people to their seats was called the חזן (Chazzan) i.e., the man who “had charge”; we read of the existence of this official in the Synagogue within the Temple precints in Jerusalem (Yoma, vii. 1).

3. And ye have respect to] Better, look with respect upon. The same word is used in Luke 1:48; Luke 9:38. The English version weakens the dramatic vividness of the Greek.

the gay clothing] The English presents a needless variation from the Greek, which has the same words as in the preceding verse. The translators would seem to have acted on their principle of bringing in as many English words as they could by way of fairness. See Preface to the Authorised Version.

Sit thou here in a good place] The English paraphrases the Greek, which runs literally, as in the margin, Sit here honourably. In practice the seats most coveted among the Jews were those near the end of the synagogue which looked towards Jerusalem, and at which stood the ark that contained the sacred roll of the Law. We do not know whether the first meeting-places of the Christian society followed the same arrangements, or whether then, as at a later period, the Table of the Lord took the place which had been occupied by the ark, and led them to covet the places that were near it, and therefore well placed for seeing and hearing the officiating elder.

Stand thou there …] The Christian, probably the elder or deacon, is supposed to point the poor man to his place at the other end of the synagogue, far from sight and hearing, giving him, it may be, the alternative of a seat on the ground, just below what we should call the “stall,” in which the rich man was invited to take his place, with a stool for his feet to rest on.

Jam 2:3. Ἐπιβλέψητε, ye look upon) with admiration.—τὸν φοροῦντα, him that weareth) although you are ignorant who he is; when perhaps he may be a heathen.—σὺσὺ, thouthou) This has here the force of a proper name.—κάθου ὧδε, sit here) The antithesis is, stand there.—καλῶς) הטיב; Septuagint, καλῶς, honourably.—ἐκεῖ, there) at a distance from us.

James 2:3Ye have respect (ἐπιβλέψητε)

Lit., ye look upon, with the idea of respectful consideration; ye regard. Compare Luke 1:48; Luke 9:38.

In a good place (καλῶς)

Lit., honorably; in a seat of honor.


Not literally underneath, but down on the ground beside. Compare Matthew 23:6, on the fondness of the Jews for the chief places in the synagogue.

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