James 2:1-4 “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand here” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”
Wow! Evil thoughts! Do you see your favoritism towards people who have more, or are better dressed as evil? God calls it that. All too often in society the well-dressed, the seemingly more important people get better seats and are treated as though they are royalty and deserving. When I think of people who get special attention when they come into a room, my mind goes to celebrities, athletes, and high powered business people. And sometimes even preachers and teachers of God’s word. Sad, but true. A person should never be judged by their lack of. When Jesus talks about our loving our neighbor as ourselves, he means everyone we come in contact with. We do not get to pick and choose who we love and are kind to.
I think the reason we will treat a well-dressed seemingly important person better is that we want to identify with them. We want to see ourselves as more than we are. We fail to realize that not all of these people have gotten where they are by honesty and hard work. Some may have cheated or been born into wealth and privilege. They may even be gaining their lifestyles at our expense. So often those who have much find it hard to follow Christ, who came as a humble servant. Too often a person’s appearance is more important to us than their character.
When we show favoritism because of someones standing, wealth or position, we are looking at the outside and not the character and depth of a person, we are showing selfish motives. All people need fellowship, the rich, the well dressed, and the poor and needy. All are human beings made in God’s image. We are told that showing favoritism is wrong. Yet, Christians do it all the time. Churches even do it, wanting the rich inside the doors, blessing the offering plate! Shame on us!
All too often people view someone being rich as their being abundantly blessed, approved, and favored by God, not true my friend. Often those riches are stumbling blocks to a right relationship with God or any relationship with God. People trust in themselves, they seem to have all they need, so why need God? Following Christ means that we are told to live humble lives, ready to give it all up for Christ’s name and hold onto eternal life. We must live faithful in this life. Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
God’s word tells us that many who are first in this life will be last. (Matthew 19:30) For those who walk faithful regardless of their earthly wealth and circumstances, God promises riches untold in eternity. (Matthew 19:29 reads:) And everyone who has left houses and brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. The world views those who have and those who have not differently. But we as believers need to view people the same, with the same kindnesses and places of importance because we are all made in God’s image.
Why is showing favoritism bad, here are a few footnotes from my bible.
- It is inconsistent with Christ’s teachings.
- It results from evil thoughts.
- It is a by-product of selfish motives.
- It insults people made in God’s image.
- It goes against the Biblical definition of love.
- It shows a lack of mercy to those less fortunate.
- It is hypocritical.
- It is sin.
Showing favoritism IS SIN. Have you ever thought about it that way? Be honest. We are told in verses 10-11 of James: “10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.” We cannot use this verse to justify any sin, by saying “well I have already broken one of God’s laws, so why try? God’s mercy is great towards us, and when we repent of our sin, He forgives us. We all need to do our best to not let sin reign in our bodies. Even Christians sometimes sin, but it is not a lifestyle of sin. We need to always measure ourselves against God’s standard, not man’s. We are not saved by the law, but by God’s grace, but as believers, we are to obey God’s word and not only hear it, but do it. One day we will all, even the rich, the poor, the needy, sinners, all appear before God’s throne of judgment to be judged for our conduct. (2 Corinthians 5:10) God’s grace does not cancel our duty to obey him.
So, in conclusion, before you decide to show favoritism to someone who seems of better standing, wealth, or privilege, remember these words found in the last couple of verses of James 2. “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” I want to live a life that pleases God in all I do. I want to treat others as I want to be treated. I have experienced being treated differently because I did not seem to measure up to what the world thinks my financial status should be. I have been judged and found wanting because my academic history did not seem to be enough. I have been judged and found wanting because I have chosen the path of homemaker over a business woman. I am sure at one time or another each of us has been either favored or found lacking.
I want to love as Jesus loves, I want to see others as he sees them. I want to mimic my Lord in all I do and say. I want to see those in need as people made in the image of God, just as deserving as I. I want to; “Act justly, Love mercy and Walk humbly before my God.” (Micah 6:8) The world and its ideas of who should be lifted and given privilege are messed up. Choose mercy over judgment. Let God work out the details of others’ lives. Do not assume that because someone is homeless, out of a job, dresses shabbily, did not go to college, does not make lots of money, or is not in the limelight, that he or she is just lazy, unintelligent, unmotivated, etc. Maybe they are in that state so that you can show mercy and kindness and act like Jesus. Maybe theirs will be the untold riches story we read about. Look into the eyes of everyone and see that they are image-bearers of their Creator. Be Jesus to them…show mercy, show love, act like the One in whom you believe, the Lord Jesus Christ!
We all come into this world with nothing, and we will take nothing with us when we leave. And we will all stand before Him. Be ready!