We’ve put together a Bible study series on James for you! Going chapter by chapter, you can get some new ideas about Bible study, learn how to use new tools, and gain new insights on the book of James. In the first post, we completed a character study on James. Now, in chapter two, we are going to walk you through a word study example.

The first step is to read the passage! So, read James 2:1-7 below, and then we’ll work on choosing a word to study.

Reading the Passage

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 

Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

James 2:1-7, ESV

Picking a Word

Choosing a word for your word study once was much more of a commitment. I remember guessing which words I thought might have some deeper meanings to unearth, flipping through a bunch of pages… repeating the process. But now I use the ESV Strong’s Bible, and the guesswork is done for me.

So, I tapped around on words that I thought were interesting for a bit. I skimmed their definitions. Then, I landed on one that seemed noteworthy: prosōpolēmpsia or partiality.

Prosōpolēmpsia | Partiality

Here are a few reasons why I chose this word to study:

  • It is called out in the chapter title
  • It appears more than once in the passage (v. 9)
  • The author uses this word in a command

You can use hints like these to determine if doing a word study could help you learn more about a passage.

Word Study Example in the ESV Strong's Bible

Now, let’s read the Strong’s definition.

partiality, i.e. favoritism: — respect of persons.

AV (4) – respect of persons 4;

I. respect of persons
II. partiality

the fault of one who when called on to give judgment has respect of the outward circumstances of man and not to their intrinsic merits, and so prefers, as the more worthy, one who is rich, high born, or powerful, to another who does not have these qualities

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance

I find it helpful to write down my thoughts at this point. What were my initial assumptions of this word? If asked, what would my definition be? Then, I’ll write out the Strong’s definition in my own words. Is there a different lens for me to see this word, and even passage, through?

Initially, I thought of “partiality” as choosing one person over another because of what they can give you: wealth, fame, power, relationship.

But the Strong’s definitions says that the sin of partiality occurs when we choose someone based on outward circumstances (worthless, and possibly coincidental) instead of internal merits (valuable, and hard-earned).

Taking Notes in the Olive Tree Bible App

Looking at Other Occurrences

In the next step of this word study example, I’ll look at other occurrences of prosōpolēmpsia in the Bible. These can give more us more context for the word we are researching. I recommend looking at the occurrences in a specific order. By starting in the same chapter, you know that you are in the same piece of writing, with the same author, with the same time period. Follow the list below to slowly move further out in context.

  • Chapter
  • Book
  • Author
  • Testament

These are the occurrences I found:

  • Romans 2:11 – “For God shows no partiality.”
  • Ephesians 6:9 – “Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.”
  • Colossians 3:25 – “For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.”
Word Study Example in the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance

I was expecting to see James 2:9, but it turns out that is a slightly different word. It still means to discriminate. Also, it’s only used once in all of the New Testament!

Word Study Example in the ESV Strong's Bible
Word Study Example in the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance

Writing A Summary

Like last time, I’m going to write a quick summary of what I found. It never hurts to gather your thoughts succinctly.

Prosōpolēmpsia is only mentioned three other times in the New Testament. Each of these times, the word is used by Paul. Also, Paul only uses this word in reference to God. God does not show partiality. Ever.

Seeing the Whole Picture

Seeing the Whole Picture

So, now that we have a good definition and proper context for prosōpolēmpsia, it’s time to try and understand the whole passage.


James 2:2-3 show us partiality in action. A poor man and a wealthy man walk into the same room. They are treated differently because of their external circumstances, not their internal merits. Judgements are made, and James calls these “evil thoughts.”

He goes on to say that this behavior is dishonorable or shameful to the poor man. And, based on our study, we know this is also dishonorable to God because this behavior is in direct opposition to God’s character.

Lastly, James throws a curve ball at his readers. He essentially says, “You disgraced the poor man. Then, you lifted up the wealthy even higher than they already are. This is ironic, because it is the rich among you who take away all you own in the name of structured society. When God evaluates the wealth of their character, these people, the seemingly rich, are bankrupt.”

Making an Application

Not every word study will be revelatory—and neither will every application. But it is always good to see what questions we can ask ourselves after studying a passage. How can we be challenged?

Here are some questions that came to my mind while working on this word study example:

  • Who do I physically show partiality to? In a crowd, am I more comfortable being close to certain types of people than others? Why? What is Jesus’ example?
  • Who do I emotionally show partiality to? Are there certain types of needs that I have less sympathy for? Why? What is Jesus’ example?
  • Who do I spiritually show partiality to? Do I assume who wants to or who should be included in spiritual communities based on external circumstances? Why? What is Jesus’ example?

After answering these, I was reminded of this truth:

It is the poor in Spirit who are often close to the heart of God.

I see this statement in James’ words—a warning that we might miss knowing people who are close to God’s heart because of our partiality. Also, I know this truth from Jesus’ own words in Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Do Your Own Word Study

Word Study

Now it’s your turn! We only looked at a section of scripture in James chapter 2 in this word study example. If you can, take some time today to read the rest of the chapter. Then, use a tool of your preference (we like the ESV Strong’s Bible!) to do a quick word study. You might be surprised with what you can learn from one little word!

Other Posts on James

James: A Brief Character Study
Finding Godly Wisdom in James 3
Writing Your Own Bible Outlines: James 4
Strength to Endure: Journaling on James 5

2 Comments

  1. I am so bless with this thank you olive tree word Reply

    I am so bless with this thank you olive tree word

  2. Adegbile John Reply

    Thanks to God for exposing me to this well of life….Exceeding grace to this platform in Jesus name.

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