Casual Christianity - Treat Everyone Equally - James 2:1-13 - November 15, 2009
Bible Study – Casual Christianity – Treat Everyone Equally – November 15, 2009
This is study three (3) in our series entitled “Casual Christianity.”
Our scripture is James 2:1-13.
Prejudice takes on many forms. It can rob believers of serving in areas they are called to by GOD. It can stunt our spiritual growth. Cliques can be used to include or exclude certain people and result in some individuals feeling left out. The selection process to form a clique or special group of people is not always based upon race but any number of other criteria.
Showing favoritism is inclusion or exclusion of people over others. It is human to want to be chosen to associate with the in-group. Christians are often no different and we have to be very careful not to fall into that mindset.
CHRIST welcomes all people from all walks of life to come to HIM in faith regardless of their status or background. I quickly caution believers not to park their brains when interacting with fellow believers. Some believers or so-called believers can prey upon fellow believers to do mischief or to take advantage of them.
This study is about believers relating to others without showing prejudice or favoritism. But a word of caution, keep a careful eye upon yourself that you are not drawn into a lifestyle that is contrary to Biblical teaching as you welcome others to become associated with you.
Let’s read James 2:1-4:
The Sin of Favoritism
1 My brothers, hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ without showing
favoritism. 2 For suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring, dressed in fine clothes, and a poor man dressed in dirty clothes also comes in. 3 If you look with favor on the man wearing the fine clothes so that you say, “Sit here in a good place,” and yet you say to the poor man, “Stand over there,” or, “Sit here on the floor by my footstool,” 4 haven’t you discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
James was telling his readers oil and water don’t mix. In other words one’s faith in CHRIST leaves no room for him/her to show favoritism. Showing favoritism is a personal attitude toward others and has no place in being a believer or serving CHRIST.
James used the words “glorious” “LORD” “JESUS” “CHRIST” for a reason. A believer must go beyond the humanness of CHRIST to see HIS Glory as the SON of GOD or Messiah. Believers must go beyond the outward appearance of people to see their heart toward CHRIST.
GOD looks upon the heart and not upon the outward appearance.
A person donned with gold and fine clothes does not reveal their true spiritual nature. So do not be fooled into catering to those with the outward appearance of wealth over the poor because GOD looks upon their heart. Christians should look beyond the veneer.
This attitude James was portraying toward the wealthy was likely a carryover from the Jewish faith. When a person was prosperous, he/she was considered to be in favor or blessed by GOD. James was telling his readers that was not the case. GOD looks upon the heart of a person and not the outward appearance or how much wealth he/she has accumulated. James had already told his readers about faith and works revealing the heart of the true believer.
James revealed his faith in JESUS by using the words “glorious Lord Jesus Christ.” His use of these words is a form of testimony that his half-brother was the true Messiah and he had faith in HIM because of HIS life, death, resurrection, ascension and evidence of the HOLY SPIRIT in his life.
James cited an example of Jewish Christians being in a “meeting”, “church” or synagogue and showing favoritism to those who had influence or who gave the appearance of being rich. This again was a likely carryover from the Jewish worship because the Sadducees, Pharisees and scribes liked the seats of prominence where they could be seen by the congregation. To me those who want the special seats raise a question in my mind regarding their motive. This is not to say that when we have special speakers or guests in our midst that we should not introduce them or not treat them well.
James points out when they show favoritism, they are discriminating against each other and making a judgment that comes from the flesh. It is like saying this person is better or more spiritual than you, therefore, you sit on the floor. It reveals their heart. Such an act shows that their hearts are not in tune with the character and nature of GOD. This is a serious indictment against those who call themselves Christians. When they show favoritism to others, they will likely show favoritism within their body of believers.
This is not criticizing common courtesy. Often a person gives his/her seat to another but it his/her choice.
When a person of means or stature allows them to treat him/her in such a way, it reveals his/her character as well. If church leaders cater to such individuals, is it out of a heart for the spiritual welfare of that person or is it in hopes of getting the benefit of that person’s association with their church? There are many Godly people of stature and means who love our LORD and serve HIM with the resources available to them. Most often, fellow believers never know what these folks do in serving and neither do these people want you to know because they are obediently responding to the call of GOD.
The Bible tells us to not let the left hand know what the right hand does.
Let’s read James 2:5-7:
5 Listen, my dear brothers: Didn’t God choose the poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that He has promised to those who love Him? 6 Yet you dishonored that poor man. Don’t the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? 7 Don’t they blaspheme the noble name that you bear?
James continued admonishing fellow Christians regarding discriminating against the poor Christians. Showing favoritism must have been a major problem in the early church.
As with many new and developing churches they need all the funds and support they can get. But they must keep in mind the purpose of their calling.
James used the word “listen” in verse 5 to get the attention of his readers. It was like, using a stern voice to say, “Now pay special attention to what I am going to tell you.” GOD has chosen to watch out for the poor because HE knows they tend to have honest, sincere hearts and depend upon HIM for their care more so than the rich. This is not to say the rich are not Godly people who also depend upon the LORD. But often when we have plenty, we tend to be more self-sufficient.
Notice that James ends verse 5 with “that He has promised to those who love Him.” This is all encompassing to include those materially poor or rich. How do you love GOD? You obediently serve HIM and build an intimate relationship with HIM. You spent time with HIM to get to really know HIM.
The poor have needs and are not as self-sufficient as the poor. They most often need hope and they find hope in GOD. HE created all that they see and they trust that HE can take care of them, whereas, the rich often depend upon what they have and are often self-sufficient. Again, this is and was not the attitude of all rich people. GOD does favor those who are spiritually poor and recognize their need for salvation from sin and death and need for CHRIST.
The rich have to be very careful not to rely upon their wealth rather than relying upon their relationship with GOD through CHRIST. The poor may not have the things the world has to offer but when they look to GOD for strength, wisdom and care they are made spiritually rich. It draws them into a more intimate relationship with CHRIST and as a result they grow and mature spiritually. Their dependence and focus upon the LORD allows them to celebrate their relationship with CHRIST and HE gives them the crown of life. We discussed the crown of life in our last study. The crown of life is given to all who are drawn into a more intimate loving relationship with CHRIST, materially poor or rich.
James reminds his readers that the very people to whom they are showing partiality are the very ones who can take them to court and blaspheme the name of CHRIST. James was encouraging his readers to look beyond a person’s outward appearance as GOD does.
When a person or family of prominence joins our church or Sunday school class, we spread the word that the so-and-so’s joined our church or class. It is natural. Our church or class rejoices when a sinner, rich or poor, gives his/her heart to our LORD and is welcomed into our fellowship regardless of his/her status. We as a congregation delight in watching fellow believers, regardless of their status or wealth, grow, mature and serve our LORD. Yes, our financial folks are always delighted when someone of means joins our congregation in hopes he/she will be good contributors but they also are concerned with his/her spiritual health and growth.
Let’s read James 2:8-13:
8 If you really carry out the royal law prescribed in Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well. 9 But if you show favoritism, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the entire law, yet fails in one point, is guilty of [breaking it]* all. 11 For He who said, Do not commit adultery, also said, Do not murder. So if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you are a lawbreaker. 12 Speak and act as those who will be judged by the law of freedom. 13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who hasn’t shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
James turned up the heat and by telling his readers that showing favoritism was a sin. To guard against showing favoritism you should “Love your neighbor as yourself.” When you do, you do not need to worry about discriminating against others. The Apostle Matthew recorded the words of JESUS in Matthew 22:34-40 regarding the importance of loving your neighbor as yourself it reflects the love you have toward GOD. JESUS said the two (2) go hand in hand.
The Primary Commandments
34 When the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they came together in the same place. 35 And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test Him: 36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most importantcommandment. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets dependon these two commandments.”
James’ readers came from Jewish religious backgrounds and even though they were Christians, they kept the law. He was reminding those who prided themselves in keeping the law but failing to keep one point of the law were guilty of breaking all of the law. Since showing favoritism was a sin they were breaking the law to show favoritism. Believers are not under the law but under grace or mercy, which is the law of freedom. Believers are to abide by the law, as well as, the intent of the law. That is why believers must have grace or mercy from GOD through CHRIST. Believers are accountable to GOD for all of their actions and the words they utter. GOD extends grace or mercy to all believers. The law of freedom prevails over the law of judgment.
A believer is free to discriminate or show favoritism but when he/she does it is a sin. Therefore, if a believer wants to remain under the law of freedom then choose to show mercy toward others rich or poor and do not show favoritism or discriminate.
James made it clear that showing favoritism was a sin toward the poor therefore the person showing favoritism had broken the intent of the “royal law.” They are not treating others as they want to be treated.
JESUS reminds believers and non-believers alike of the importance of observing the intent of the law in Matthew 5:21 and 27:
21 “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder,and whoever murders will be subject to judgment.
27 “You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery. 28 But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
GOD looks upon the heart of the person. Therefore, when you show favoritism to the rich over the poor your priorities are misplaced. Treat all people as GOD does and consider their obedience to GOD rather than their outward appearance.
Loving the person regardless of his/her status in life has given rise to many alternative worship services or community churches, which I think are great. Worship is not about how we dress or who we see or want to be seen with. But it is about coming together to worship our LORD, to learn more about HIM, to grow and mature spiritually and to obediently serve HIM whether in ragged jeans or a tux.
One day we will all meet JESUS and it will not be about how much material wealth we accumulated but how much have we grown into the image of our SAVIOR and LORD JESUS? Well done, MY son or daughter our FATHER will say. You look just like MY SON JESUS!!!