Get Rid of Favoritism
Topic: Sanctification Passage: James 2:1–13
The goal of James is to move us to wholeness, perfection, completeness. He wants us to live out our faith with consistency and genuineness. He doesn't want you to go on in the Christian life with huge blind spots, with glaring weaknesses, with areas of your life that just do not add up with being a follower of Christ.
The next area he wants to fix in our lives, is the problem of showing favoritism. Vs 1 “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism”. This is a general command that applies to any and every kind of favoritism we might show.
We are not to make distinctions on how we treat people based on any outward differences; whether someone is black or white, highly educated or with very little education, in management or labor, a leader or a follower, a charismatic dynamic person, or a very ordinary person, rich or poor, and on an on. This is not just an adult problem either. Kids at school make distinctions, and can be very cruel in doing so. They make distinctions between who is “in” and who is “out”, in who is “cool” and who is not. They judge other kids by their clothes or shoes. When I was in high school at Des Moines East, there were kids IN the clique and kids NOT in the clique. I was not “IN” and I felt that and knew my place.
I was talking with our lead framer Jeff, who runs all our framing crews, about a problem he had with one of his guys who did something that offended a homeowner. He was so upset about it, he said, because “we know people are afraid of us anyway, and view us as kind of dangerous people. So it hurts to have one of our guys do something that feeds into that stereotype”. He was aware that as a construction worker SOME people view him in some way as a lesser person.
If you have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ you should NOT favor one person, or one kind of person, over another. Colossians 3:11 says, “There is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian and Scythian, slave and free man, but Christ is all and in all”. Galatians 2:28 adds “there is neither male or female for you are all one is Christ Jesus”.
In Christ we are blind to outward differences. We are blind to economic differences! We are NOT impressed by social status! We are not impressed by people with power or money! And we are not put off, by a lowly needy person. We don't even think in those categories! We don't think in terms of rich and poor, slaves and masters, high and low. We should be friendly to both rich and poor, we show love and respect to both; without making a different value judgment about anyone. No one at RLC should be shown anything but complete love, acceptance, everyone should be shown, at all times, that we value them as a person made in the image of God.
In vs 2 James gives us a specific example of showing favoritism: “For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?”.
This is a story about a church gathering in which apparently there were not enough seats for everyone. So some had to stand or sit on the floor. Nothing wrong with that. And some seats were better than others. Nothing wrong with that. The problem came when the people in the church gave the best chair to the well dressed rich man and had the poor man in dirty clothes sit on the floor. The usher, or whoever was seating people clearly viewed certain people as being worthy of the special seats, and other people, as only good enough to sit on the floor.
What is the problem with this?.......You have made distinctions! And in the presence of our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, ALL EARTHLY DISTINCTIONS HAVE DISAPPEREARED!
James says, “Have you not made distinctions?” Or have you not discriminated among your selves?” This is not just a question! This is a charge! This is a rebuke! It is wrong! To make distinctions is to divide the body. It strikes at the root of our oneness in Christ. It destroys our fellowship in Christ.
Christ puts all on a level ground. We all need Christ just as much, we were all sinners who needed to be saved, we are all now God's children, we are all brothers and sisters. We all are part of one body. Every time we take communion we proclaim this. 1 Corinthians 10:17 says, “Is the the bread we break, a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the same bread”. So the first reason why this is so wrong is that it makes distinctions where THERE IS TO BE NO DISTINCTIONS.
Second thing wrong about this: Favoritism reveals a judgmental heart. Vs 4b “Have you not become become judges with evil motives?”. When you show favoritism, you put yourself in the place of God. You are judging things about people that you have NO BUSINESS judging. You have set yourself up as a judge of people's worth.
This sin is so deceptive that without knowing it we can be judging and condemning people all day long: He's too fat. She's too thin. They are always late. She dresses up too much. She doesn't dress up enough. He works too much. He doesn't work enough. He doesn't take care of his stuff. He spends too much time taking care of his stuff. And on and on....
Wrongly judging other believers is one of the most damaging sins in the body of Christ. And it can damage our homes and marriages. A judgmental attitude is lethal to spiritual growth, to unity, and to close fellowship. Jesus said, Do not judge. Be merciful instead.
James is telling us: A complete Christian, does DOES NOT judge people's value on these kind of external things.
The end of that verse says you have become judges with evil motives. There is something evil about this. IE something is seriously evil going on in your heart, if you reject some people and fawn over others. You may be doing it from pride. You want to only be associated with a certain kind of person and are embarrassed to be associated with another. You may be trying to gain some advantage from the rich or influential person. But whatever the motive, IT IS EVIL.
Third problem: You are ignoring God's value of poor people. Vs 5 James tells us to look at the ones God has chosen for salvation - more often than not, they are poor. It is a reality that God has chosen more poor people than rich people. 1 Corinthians 1:26 says, “Think of what you were when you were called, not many of you were wise by human standards, no many were powerful, not many were of noble birth”. If God honors the poor and the weaker, in this way, then we should too.
Vs 6 goes on: “But (by showing favoritism) you have DISHONORED the poor man. You have insulted the man with the dirty clothes. Without being aware of it, you may harbor in your heart, attitudes that you regard certain kinds of people as your kind of people and others not. Romans 12:16 says, “Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.”
Fourth problem: Favoritism toward the rich doesn't make sense. Vs6 “Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?”. Typically the rich do not have the best track record with how they treat you. Typically the rich do not honor the name of the Lord. As a rule they don't care about the God you love. Why cater to them. Why exalt them? Why place special value on them? It makes no sense.
James is not saying, go insult the rich person. The command is to avoid personal favoritism of any kind. Leviticus 19:15 says, “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor, NOR defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly”.
Fifth problem: When you show favoritism, you violate your call to love all, just as you love yourself. Vs 8 “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”. There is no room for favoritism at all with this command. OUR CALL IS TO LOVE EVERYBODY. Our call is to honor the king and the children. The greatest and the least.
James calls this fulfilling the “royal law”. The Royal Law is the law of the King. IE it is the law of God. AND it is the primary law, the supreme command. It is not just one among many other commands. It is the foremost. It fulfills all other laws. All other laws are summed up in this law. Jesus said they will know you are my disciples by your love for one another. We are to be known for this one command, above all others! What are you known for? Favoritism is wrong because is breaks the royal law of love.
Let me read you a few quotes from Andrew Murray. “There is a brother, a most unlovable man. He worries you every time you meet him. He is of the very opposite disposition to yours. You are a careful businessman, and you have to do with him in your business. He is most untidy, unbusiness-like. You say: “I cannot love him”. O friend, you have not learned the lesson that Christ wanted to teach (you) ABOVE EVERYTHING. Let a man be what he will, you are to love him.”
“We talk about grieving the Spirit of God by worldliness and ritualism,...and (doctrinal) error.. but, I tell you, the one thing above everything that grieves God's Spirit is this lack of love.”
“Take the question of holiness, take the question of the baptism of the Spirit – what differences are caused among dear believers by such questions! That there are differences of opinion does not trouble me. … But how often hate, bitterness, contempt, separation, unloving actions, are caused by the holiest truths of God's Word! Our doctrines, our creeds, have been more important than love. We often think we are valiant for the truth, and we forget God's command to speak the truth in love.”
What does this have to do with James 2? I think it has everything. We are not to insult the poor man or defer to the rich, BUT neither are we to show favoritism to one who thinks like we do on every point of doctrine, and disdain for the one who holds a different view.
Sixth: To show favoritism is a major problem. Vs 9-13 is for any who think this is a minor issue. VS 9 “You are committing sin”.
Vs 10 “ For whoever keeps the whole law but stumbles in one point, he as become guilty of all”. If you do NOT commit adultery but you DO commit murder you have broken the moral law of God. In the same way, IF you live a clean, moral life, BUT you show favoritism, you have broken God's law. You can't pick and choose which commands you want to obey. And you can't say well I do pretty good at NOT committing murder, so I am not going to worry about a little thing like treating people differently. It doesn't work like that. To obey God is to obey him in all things as much has you know. You can't obey God on a selective basis.
Now I am not going to try to harmonize this with all that Paul said about the law. It would take way too much time and I'm afraid we would miss the point of James.
Vs 12 “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty”. James has used this phrase twice and assumes we know what it means. Christ freed us from the burdensome commands and regulations of the law of Moses and said, “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another. When you love others you are acting according to the law of liberty. When you don't you are acting against it. Paul said, For you were called to freedom, brothers, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh but THROUGH LOVE SERVE ONE ANOTHER”.
Speak to others and act toward others, as those who will be judged by this law of liberty that calls us to love one another. You will be judged on how you have loved one another. Showing favoritism, making distinctions, IS NOT LOVING, AND IS SETTING UP A PERSON FOR HARSH JUDGMENT.
Vs 13 “For judgment will be merciless to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment”. A big factor in how you are judged will be how merciful you were towards others. If you are merciful in dealing with others, God will be merciful in dealing with you. There is some fear in this. Only an unconverted person could be a person who has shown no mercy. But the warning is there for us to see how terrible a thing it is to make unmerciful judgments on our brothers and sisters.
Jesus said, in Luke 6:36-38, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge and you will not be judged; do not condemn and you will not be condemned; pardon and you will be pardoned”....then the end of verse 38, “For by your own standard of measure it will be measured out to you in return”. Jesus teaches that God will deal with us in much the same way we have dealt with others.
So...Before you disrespect the poor man with the dirty clothes, before you speak disdainfully of a brother or sister because of some outward distinction, seriously think about this: how you show mercy will be how YOU are shown mercy. You want God to be merciful toward you, go be merciful to all people around you WITHOUT DISTINCTION.
Mercy triumphs over judgment. In context: “Judgment is merciless to the one who shows no mercy but mercy triumphs over judgment.” Without showing any mercy, judgment hangs over a person as a fearful and awful thing. But mercy allows us to escape judgment, to NOT fear it. Not that we are saved by mercy but in showing mercy we confirm that God has called us and chosen us.
Gills exposition of the Bible put it this way: “Merciful men, who have shown mercy to the poor saints, will not be afraid of the awful judgment, but rather rejoice or glory, as the word signifies, in the view of it, since they will obtain mercy at that day, and hear, Come, ye blessed of my Father. ...He only shall glory in the day of judgment, who hath showed mercy. To think that we can face judgment with an attitude of glory and triumph!
What a tremendous motivation to accept one another, love one another, show respect, courtesy AND MERCY to ALL MEN, ESPECIALLY TO THOSE WHO ARE OF THE HOUSEHOLD OF FAITH.
More in James - A Portrait of Living Faith
July 17, 2016The Important Work of Turning a Wandering Brother Back to God
July 3, 2016God's Pathway to Healing
June 26, 2016Healing and the Heart of God