Mountains have always reminded people of certain eternal truths. Mountains are so big, so strong, and so apparently unchanged by time (though we know that over long enough stretches of time, they do change). To the believer in God, they are a wonderful symbol of God’s might and unchanging goodness.
Physical mountains, of course, are quite indifferent to human life or death. But God cares for His people, and uses His might to protect them. He not only saves them from dangers that threaten us from outside, but He also saves us from the evil that we find within ourselves.
We like to think we do well at loving our neighbors, but James points out a situation where it is so easy to fall short. Of course when someone well-dressed comes into our worship service, we are eager to make the visitor feel welcome. Why wouldn’t we? Yet if a beggar or homeless person were to come in, we might well find it hard to give as warm a welcome.
We want to defend ourselves. Giving a better welcome to one person than another is not such a serious sin, is it? But James reminds us that sin is sin, whether it’s one we think of as a “big” sin or a “little” sin. We need mercy for all of them, and we need to learn to show the same mercy to others.