Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?I have tried to stick with a verse a day, but every once in a while there are a few verses that it would confuse the matter to separate them. The thought would become muddled by trying to discuss the one thought over a few separate days. So, I am keeping these verses together.
In James' day, there was a discrimination going on between the rich and the poor. Rich people would many times make assumptions about poor people based on their outward appearance. If they were poor, they were probably not very spiritual. The reason for this was because there was the incorrect philosophy (which was supported by the pharisees of the day) that if you were living righteous, then God would bless you... If you were blessed by God, then you would be prosperous... If you were prosperous, then you would be rich. You can see this philosophy seeping through when Jesus makes the comment about the difficulty of a rich man getting into heaven. His disciples respond with, How in the world can anyone get into heaven, because for them the rich were surely the most righteous because God had blessed them.
James is challenging this thinking. We cannot determine a person's character by their outward appearance. Any form of judgment based on a person's appearance is a sinful judgment, which is rooted in evil thoughts.
Don't let this be confused with the discernment that comes from evaluating character based on actions. The whole rest of this book is about that exact thing. You can also go to several different places in the Bible that talk about making "judgments" based on behavior. (I Cor. 5:12-13, I John 3:10, Matt.7:15-20)