Today we look at James 2:1-13. James continues with his instruction for practical Christian living, imploring us to look at our treatment of others which is a testament to what we profess to believe.
The passage begins with a clear statement on our stance as believers regarding showing favoritism – he writes, don’t show favoritism.
Favoritism is defined as the practice of giving unfair preferential treatment to a person or group at the expense of another. In other words, it can also be described as partiality.
We might frown upon the more overt ways it is shown but are we aware and cautious of the ways in which we might covertly be displaying it. Sometimes, the word favoritism can seem a little less serious than what scripture calls it out to be. James writes in verse 9, that showing favoritism is a sin, and when we show it, we discriminate and become judges with evil thoughts. Each and every person is made in the image of God, worthy to be loved by Him and saved by Him and so who are we to deem someone more important than another.
Rom 2:11 says “For God shows no partiality.”
Deuteronomy 10:17 says “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.”
Leviticus 19:15 says “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbour.”
In James 2:1 how does James describe the brothers and sisters – as believers.
And how should that identity impact how we treat others – by living out the word of God that is planted in us. James’s teaching from the previous chapter says we are to not merely listen but apply the word of God in our lives and we are to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
If the world elevates the rich, as believers, we remember that one is not more worthy than another. One soul is not more worthy to be saved than another. Christ did not go selectively to the cross for a certain section of people, he went for all.
James’s words here point us to be cautious of the kind of attitude we can have, and the example given is one expression of it – giving preferential treatment based on their outward appearance and riches. How often have we made a judgement about someone by their outward appearance and attire? I think we all have at some point done so. And remember that James is addressing about partiality within the church assembly, and it is the believers who gather there who end up falling short in treating everyone as God sees their worth. And as such, we too today are equally susceptible to falling short in our treatment of others.
We as Christ followers know we are to treat everyone equally, but circumstances, experiences and sometimes the actions of others can colour how we live this reality out. Or our behaviour might not exactly reflect showing favoritism but it might neither be reflecting what God has called us to do which is to love our neighbour as ourselves, as James reminds us to in verse 8 “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, love your neighbour as yourself, you are doing right.”
James’s words here urge us to take a deeper look within to not just our outward ways but also our thoughts. The Lord calls us to associate value to all equally as the Lord himself does, but we sometimes choose to operate in opposition to it. If we discriminate it reflects a shortcoming in our faith and a need to grow in our understanding of who God calls us to be. But the good news is that the Lord meets us where we are at, loves us just as we are but his love for us is so great that he does not leave us where we are at. He convicts, challenges and grows us as long as we have a willing and obedient spirit.
James goes on to write that the people were seeking the approval of the rich who didn’t even treat the underprivileged fairly and were slandering the name of the Lord. As believers, shouldn’t poor treatment of some stir righteous justice within. And shouldn’t the Lord’s name being slandered reflect those rich people’s heart posture towards God. And yet they were preferentially treated, and we gather that it was because of their wealth and therefore they were considered beneficial to be part of the church assembly.
Where does this sit in our own lives – do we in some way compromise our faith or overlook certain wrongs for a temporary benefit?
James goes on to say in verse 10 “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking it all.”
This verse is a humbling reminder that we can never excuse a wrong we do, thinking that we follow God’s word in most areas and so it would be ok. We can never be a true disciple of Christ if we only partially apply ourselves to certain areas that are easier or comfortable to do so.
James 2:12-13 says, “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom. Because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgement.”
James reminds us to speak and act, keeping in mind an eternal perspective, as we answer to the Lord for all our actions. Through the work of Christ on the cross we are freed from the bondage of sin, so we are no longer slaves to sin but have the power over it through HIM.
Mathew 5:7 says, “Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.”
Mathew 7:2 says, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Mercy triumphs over Judgement – Romans 8:1 says, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We receive His mercy and so let us freely extend that mercy to others.
These words in scripture are a humbling reminder for us all to strive to treat each and every soul as one who is loved by the Lord enough that he gave his life for them. As disciples we are called to live with our ways that are set apart from the world’s ways, living out Christlikeness, reflecting His light and love. So, may we grow in the grace and love of Jesus Christ, setting aside our ‘self’ and treating everyone as one who is dearly loved by Christ.