Thanks for giving me a chance to help you connect with God through Scripture this year.
If you missed any of last week’s posts, catch up by clicking on any day below:
- Day 1: James 1:1
- Day 2: James 1:2-4
- Day 3: James 1:5-8
- Day 4: James 1:9-11
- Day 5: James 1:12-18
- Day 6: James 1:19-26
- Day 7: James 1:27
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 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, 3 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,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? – James 2:1-4
Faith and Favoritism Don’t Mix (v. 1)
The word James uses for partiality or favoritism (“prosopolempsia”) literally means to receive someone based on their face. We can’t get much more superficial than that.
Faith is the great neutralizer of power and status.
I had several world class professors in seminary. While none of them attended my church regularly, I would occasionally attend events at theirs. They all, without hesitation or exception, refused to answer to Dr. ______ at church. Dr. Olson was Roger and Dr. Werntz was Myles.
At my church we have one of the most prolific coaches in high school football history. His teams consistently compete for state championships and he has been named the best high school football coach in the country.
At church, the legendary Coach Jones is Rick. Chief Dawson (police) is Will.
The Gospel reminds us that faith in Jesus neutralizes positions of worldly power. It puts all of us on the same level: in need of Jesus.
Picking Favorites (v.2-3)
The hypothetical scenario James shares in verse 2 and 3 is probably not hypothetical at all. While it seems as if he’s just making up a scenario, it’s either a real recollection or such an applicable scenario that James’ church members can thing of numerous times this has already happened.
90% of the people in the time and area of James’ ministry were classified as poor. There was hardly any middle class and most people stayed within the same social and economic class as their parents. It’s easy to think about how special a member of the elite 8-10% must have been treated, especially seen through the eyes of the resources they could give to the persecuted, poverty-stricken church.
Favoring rich people in church over poor people (the word James uses actually means destitute, very poor) is an undeniable case of a failure “to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (1:27)
Who are you tempted to play favorites with? If you can’t think of anyone, think through the following questions:
- Do you surround yourself with people mostly like you?
- Are you uncomfortable around people from different racial backgrounds?
- Do you have friends from a diverse group of economic backgrounds?
- Do you show more attention to people who can help you get ahead?
The Church in
Question #4 above might be what James is most concerned about. Remember, James is writing to Christians about how they interact with other Christians.
When Jesus followers use one another to advance their own personal gain or achieve higher status, we become divided “judges with evil thoughts” in the one place where God has called for the highest unity.
Questions for Prayer and Application
1. How do you treat people who you cannot benefit from in any way? Ask God to help show you the benefits of serving people who cannot offer you anything in return.
2. Think about the people in leadership in your church. Does your church seem to value wealth and business experience over the spiritual qualifications outlined in Scripture for the church’s leaders?
3. In what areas of your life might you be guilty of playing favorites? What can you do to begin to surround yourself with “a fellowship of differents” as Scot McKnight calls the church?