James has already said something in chapter one that I did not mention in previous weeks. In 1:27 James says that pure religion that the Father accepts is “to look after orphans and widows in their distress.” What did the Lord Jesus say is the summation of the Law? We are to love God with all that we are and to love our neighbors as ourself. Loving your neighbor is a hallmark of Christianity, yet how many Christians use and abuse others? How many even do it on Sunday morning? This was a major concern in the early church and it continues to be a chief matter to be addressed in the modern church. James gives us instruction on this subject as he begins chapter two, by inspiration of God. There is vital teaching from the Lord, so let us hear what he has to say.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
The issue is how we view other people, especially Christians. When you look at someone what agenda do you have? Are you asking yourself if they are worthy of your engagement or are you asking yourself how you can love them?
Spiritual and Scriptural truth must be put to practice. James wants to stress this point. If we believe what the Bible says about the Gospel and the Grace of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ then we can not exercise partiality. 1 John 2:2 says that Jesus Christ died for our sins, yet not only ours but for the sins of the world!
The recipients of this original letter must have been guilty for this thinking and behavior. Partiality is inconsistent with faith in Christ. Just as light has no fellowship with darkness, neither does the Gospel with favoritism.
Verse two begins a hypothetical situation that illustrates this major point of the section. It is given of a rich man and a poor man. Now this is an obvious example, but the scenario could be written in many others ways. Think to yourself some other comparisons that would illustrate this point. Aren’t there plenty of types of people that are treated with great worth while others are considered rubbish? This is a shame, but you get James’ point.
The description is “fine” clothes vs. “shabby” clothes (dirty/filthy). The discrimination that this illustration paints is far more than just a look one way or the other. The discrimination extends to the treatment of the two individuals. One is told to have a nice seat, most likely in a prominent place in the assembly, while the other is told to stand, most likely out of the way in the back or in a corner with his other option being to sit on the floor. The language is that of the rich man having a comfortable seat with a foot stool while the poor man is told to sit by the foot stool or possibly “below the footstool.” We understand what is meant.
James then gives the reader the opportunity to decide for themselves what type of behavior this is. He poses the question to them, but we already hear the hint of condemnation in the words from verse four such as partiality, judges, and evil. Where does discriminating behavior like this come from? Evil Thoughts!
This conduct has softly been condemned as ungodly, hypocritical, and down-right evil. Now the conversation turns to an intimate statement- “My Beloved Brethren…” In verse five James allows the readers to once again answer a question for themselves, but the answer is also implied again- God has chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world.
God shows no favoritism, but He does have a special place in His heart for two groups of people: “Little Ones” and “Least of These.” He has an eye on the lowly of this world and has promised to make them rich in due time by faith. Our Heavenly Father truly wants all to assume this lowly role:
1. “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” (Spiritually Bankrupt)
2. “The First shall be Last and the Last shall be First…”
3. “Wash one another’s feet…”
4. Jesus said, “I am gentle and lowly in heart…”
5. Let us take a LOOK at Philippians 2:5-11.
That is the Biblical pattern- humility leads to exaltation, low to high, last to first.
It is important to note that we would be dead-wrong to read verse five as saying “God has chosen ONLY the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom.” That is not what the text says nor is it implied. Jesus said that it is difficult for a rich person to make it into the kingdom, but He did not say it was impossible. Actually, do you know what He told His disciples? He told them that it is impossible for man but all things are possible with God. Some Christians have been blessed with wealth so that they can bless the church and the world by it in the name of Jesus Christ. The key point is that God does not discriminate between rich and poor. He has not rejected either group, but wills that none would perish and that all would be saved by turning to Christ.
We know the recipients of this letter were guilty because James tells them point blank in verse six, “But you have dishonored the poor man.” The question is- are we guilty as they were? I don’t know the answer for each of you, but a text like this can prevent us from falling into an Evil trap like showing certain people partiality. It is Evil Thinking. When we behave this way we assume the role of judge, and the Father has already appointed a Judge, His Son Jesus Christ.
Finally, verse seven teaches that this discriminating behavior is blasphemy against our glorious Lord. The rich, young ruler said he wanted to be perfect, but could not part with his material wealth which no doubt gave him worldly confidence, power, authority, praise of men, and probably a prominent place in an assembly. What is the conclusion of that incident? He went away from the Lord miserable.
Two things can be said here for condemnation of favoritism:
1. (v5-6) This attitude contradicts God’s assessment. God honors the poor.
2. (v7) Showing favoritism betrays the name of Christ Jesus our Lord.
There are two types of faith in this context:
1. Faith in Partiality- that you can gain acceptance by appeasing the affluent
2. Faith is Christ- acceptance comes from assuming a lowly position
James pleads with his readers and us as this Scripture has come down through the centuries to choose the second. Do not put faith in partiality. It will not save you and it will honestly not help you in the immediate. James says that these arrogant, prominent people are oppressors and that they blaspheme the holy name of Christ by which we have been called by behaving this way. The Lord Jesus said at one time that the Gentile Rulers “lord it over” their people and he instructed His disciples to flee from the behavior. Prominent people, whether they be in a place of government or church leadership, very wealthy, or very successful should never lord it over others and they should assume the role of a servant just like the King of the universe did. The charge is to deny this conduct and put our faith in Christ, the servant, the sympathetic priest, the savior.
Once again, the fundamental issue is how we view other people, especially Christians. When you look at someone what agenda do you have? Are you asking yourself if they are worthy of your engagement or are you asking yourself how you can love them? We should be looking past clothes and jewelry by looking straight into the heart of another human being. What does their spirit tell you? Do they need a hug, do they need a smile, do they need some advice, are they hurting, do they need prayer, are they spiritually weak, or can they teach you something? These are Godly questions. Read a person’s spirit and not their shirt.
“My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.”