Pastor Edward Brouwer October 14, 2018 “Showing Favorites” James 2:1-9
Favoritism is a real problem in our lives and James says that true disciples of Jesus must not show bias in their dealings with other people. The Bible is full of stories of people showing favoritism, and today we read advice and counsel regarding believing the gospel and living the gospel
Read James 2:1-9
The Bible if full of flawed heroes and I loved the realism of James recognizing that every believer is flawed. Do we really believe what we say or not? Are we acting out of ignorance or perhaps we really don’t understand the gospel
James does three things in this little passage. He makes a broad statement, gives an example and then rests his case with the words of Jesus. Here it is “if you a true Christian then you should never show favoritism but the fact is you do show favoritism and here’s a specific example” and finally “following Jesus means copying His example of loving your neighbor as yourself.” It means doing what he did but also living the reality of what he did for us.
James starts the passage by writing that Jesus Christ is the revealed Glory of God—do you really truly believe in him when you show partiality? James is telling us as Christians that we should root our faith in the way God deals with us from a theological perspective. Jesus Christ is the Shekinah Glory of God, God incarnate and revealed to us. Once you’ve had an encounter with Jesus then you life must be radically changed. Think about it: God in the flesh has become poor so that we could become rich. He left His position of authority and power and honor, so that we could become children of God. We who were poor have become rich because of His mercy. That’s why James can say “blessed are the poor for they shall inherit the Kingdom of God” in verse 5. So James is appealing to our experience in Christ as a model for how we are to treat others. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:26 “not many of you were the rich and the famous but God chose you to show His all surpassing wisdom over the so called wisdom of the world” The wisdom of the world would say “the good the beautiful the wealthy the wise—these shoulda all have first dibs on God’s mercy”. Nope that’s not how God works, he didn’t save us on the basis of deeds which we had done in righteousness but because of his mercy (Titus 3:5). But our problem and tendency (even after we become believers) is that we so often think that God is just a grander version of ourselves. That He thinks like us but in just an unlimited way. Nope we must disabuse ourselves of this notion. God is FAR and away beyond our thoughts.
This kind of faulty thinking gets us sideways in our dealings with other people. Let’s be honest, we show favoritism because of enlightened self-interest. James gives us a specific example of this notion.
Here’s the Scenario: James gives us the example of showing partiality of the rich over the poor. A wealthy person comes into your fellowship and you show fawning deference. This rich individual gets the best place to sit, while at the same time another individual, whose clothing a demeanor demonstrate poverty—that person is either ignored or worse yet treated with contempt. Ouch! James rebukes us when we show this kind of blatant discrimination for two reasons:
You have sinful motives! You want to get in with the rich because you think perhaps you can leverage the relationship to your own advantage. That is selfish and wrong. It shows you are trusting in human networks to protect and advance your cause and it’s ironic in that it may actually backfire on you! Isn’t it the wealthy who actually press their advantage against you? The rich who throw their wealth around as a threat?
And it’s not only wrong because it’s selfish and foolish but it also demeans the image of God in all humans. Every human has been created in the image of God. If you associate with the rich, famous, powerful and beautiful people of this world, then you show how profoundly you have bought into a worldly way of thinking. God’s way of thinking is that everyone has the same value. God is no respecter of persons. Think about the story in Acts 10. Peter thinks God will always retain a special place in His heart for Jews. But when the Holy Spirit is given to gentiles he realizes that God shows no partiality, that the gospel is for everyone regardless of race (Jew/Greek), gender (male/female), or social standing (slave/free/poor/rich).
James circles back to the teaching of Christ. You call yourself a Christian? Then live by and out of the life and teaching of Christ. Christ taught us to love our neighbor as yourself. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The real litmus test for following Christ is not just admiring what he did for us BUT also living that out through the power of the Spirit. Jesus Christ loved his neighbor during his earthly ministry. He associated with the poor and downcast and critiqued the power elites. He hung around with the so called dregs of society, prostitutes, tax collectors, Samaritans, women. Was he discriminating? NO. What he said was “I will go to the people who recognize they need me, the sick who need a doctor”. The power elites saw Jesus as a threat to be eliminated. They often stood above Him in judgment. “Who are you, you illegitimate Galilean telling us what to do!”
As important as it is to follow Jesus example if we say we love him, we must really understand the gospel truth that we don’t have this ability in and of ourselves. Only because Jesus died for us, only in realizing our own utter inability to please God through all our good work. You see because Jesus made a level playing field, choosing us not on the basis of our own merits, but because of his mercy—now we can approach our relationships with other people on the same level playing field—one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread! In your dealings with people this week, ask the Holy Spirit to give you utter humility—that whether you stand before Kings or Paupers, that you will only point to Jesus the Author and Finisher of your faith.