FOR RICHER OR POORER
If you look at James chapter 1 verse 27, James says; This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Now I think it is interesting and intentional that immediately after James says that we are to “keep ourselves unstained by the world” that he goes immediately into chapter 2 and speaks of “showing favoritism or partiality.”
Look with me at vs. 1 again. First of all it is very important to understand who this is addressed to. James says,” My brethren.”
He starts off “My brothers” and this means that James’ goal was not to address cultural or societal problems even though they were very serious in his day
He was writing to remind believers, and that’s you and me, to remind us that the prejudice, and bias, and favoritism, and racism have no place in the body of Christ.
And he says, My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.
And there are two very key reasons why we, as believers in our glorious Lord, should never show partiality in the body of Christ and the very first reason is that to be IMPARTIAL IS TO BE LIKE GOD.
First, Romans 2:11: For there is no partiality with God.
Ephesians 6 9. Paul writes: And, masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
And then Colossians 3 25: For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.
These verses reveal to us the heart of God and because it’s the heart of God it ought to be the heart of believers.
But there’s another very, very, very, very important reason why bigotry and partiality and prejudice should never exist within the church and that is because they’ve all been abolished at the cross of Christ.
Now, since you are “sons of God and since you have been baptized into Christ and clothed yourselves with him,” look what he says: 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek (Jew or Gentile), there is neither slave nor free man (to you and me in our culture we might say, poor or wealthy), there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
And he goes on to say: 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
Look what Paul wrote in Romans 3. At the end of vs. 22, he says, …for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
But when you and I come to Jesus, no matter who you are, Paul says in vs. 24 that “we are justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ.”.
When we’re living in a culture that is rife with racism and bigotry and hatred it’s important for us, as believers, to remember that In the church it doesn’t matter what your income level is , or your skin color is, or your popularity or your education level or your ethnic background is; those things don’t matter.
Showing favoritism or partiality is something the world does; but it is not something that is to “stain the church.”
Now in verses 2 and 3 James gives us an example of two men walking into the same church one of them is wealthy, one of them is poor. (there are other standards used to make social distinctions; education; position or authority; perhaps even appearance or beauty. James uses perhaps the most common standard and that is money and wealth.)
What are some “evil motives?”
Whatever the motive or thought process is, becoming judges and making social distinctions in the church according to what we prefer and like goes completely against God’s will; it is to usurp God’s authority; and James says that to do that is “evil.”
But look at another reason why it is wrong to show favoritism to the rich over the poor. Look at verse 5-7.
Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? 7 Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?
Do you see what these brethren were doing.?
But that is what prejudice and bigotry often does.
It is like the man who had a heart attack and yet refused to call the doctor because the doctor was a black man.
The point is, the people of God are not to be guilty of the sin of partiality.
Christians are never to show favoritism to rich men…nor are we to carry it too far and show favoritism to the poor.
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.
Now vs. 9: But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
You cannot keep the royal law and show partiality. It just won’t work.
But some will always try to excuse themselves.
They were taking the law of God and dividing it into a series of separate injunctions.
Well, James answers this notion in verses 10-11.
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. 11 For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.
James says that the will of God is one great whole…all of which is to be kept.
So, when it comes to showing partiality, or making social distinctions in the church, what are we to do? Vs. 12:
12 So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. (We are going to be judged by the gospel of Christ; Romans 2:16) So we need to live accordingly. We are not to live according to what we might prefer or according to what the world might prefer.)
13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy (in this context it is probably a reference to have a wrong attitude toward the poor. It is better to have mercy because; mercy triumphs over judgment.
Whether it is caused by wealth…by race…by education…by looks…or any other thing…the temptation to show favoritism is a very real thing.