Summary: After 8 months sidetrack, this message brings us back to James to hear his words about living and life. Favoritism is an ugly thing anywhere at anytime, but especially for God’s family.
The Face of Favoritism
* I recently read a story about a man who was the interim pastor of a church. He hadn’t been at the church for long, so the people didn’t know him very well yet. (Interim pastors are in a very unique position. Many times they have a lot more insight into what’s really going on in a church than people who have been there forever. Not only do they have more insight than the people, most of the time they have more freedom to do something about it than a full-time pastor does. In other words, they can more easily see the problems. And when they see the problems, they are free to do something about them). Apparently that’s the way this man felt. One Sunday morning before church, he didn’t shave or shower or brush his teeth. He dug through the rag bin and found the worst clothes he could find. They were dirty and stained and worn and smelled like they had been in the rag bin for a while. Then he went to the store and bought a bottle of beer and borrowed a shopping cart. He filled the cart with cardboard, aluminum cans and other junk. And then he poured the beer over his clothes. Then about 5 minutes before service started, he slowly pushed his cart up to the front door of the church. He dug around in it for a minute & then proceeded to walk in the church and sit down quietly on the back row. You could’ve heard a pin drop. Of course, nobody recognized who it was. The only thing they saw was a bum sitting on the back row. And the smell! It was awful. Finally, one of the ushers got up and told the man he would have to leave. So he did. He got up, walked out the front door, around the side of the building & into his private office door. Then, when it was time to preach, he walked out of his office, into the sanctuary and took his place behind the pulpit. And there, still dressed in the clothes of a homeless man, he preached on this passage.
* I suggest that he had a captive audience that day because no one should be able to deny the sin in their heart. (They will, but they shouldn’t!) In the context of Church history, we can say that James probably knew something about this problem because he was either “the pastor” or ‘one’ of the pastors for the church in Jerusalem. This was a large, mega-church with much authority & influence. It has been suggested that, at one time, this church had over 20,000 members so we can be assured that James had bore witness to ‘favoritism’ on at least one occasion.
* Every time I read this text I am reminded of years passed when church attendance was ‘all about’ one’s dress. Over 35+ years – how many times I have spoken with someone only to hear them say, “I have nothing to wear.” James tells us that for the child of God, this shouldn’t be. Let’s take a simple look at our text and glean truths to help us be more like HIM.
1. My Standard – I use the personal pronoun ‘my’ because this, like so many other things, is highly personal. Whether we wear the face of love or bigotry is very personal to us. And it seems that, knowing this, James begins in a personal manner with “My Brothers.”
* He gives clear evidence that his messages is only for those who know, love, & follow Christ. He calls them “Brothers.”
a. Hold your Faith – In most marriage vows are these words, “To have and to hold” from this day forward. It speaks of possession & commitment. When James tells us to hold our faith, he is giving us the same thought. In other words, you have to ‘have it’ before you can ‘hold it.’ Think about some of the words of scripture about ‘faith.’ (Romans 3:10, 3:23, 6:23, 5:8-12, Ephesians 2:8-9, 2 Corinthians 5:17, John 3:3, Ezekiel 36:26). To hold one’s faith, one must first have a faith, and that faith must be faith in Jesus which is a life-changing faith. A true faith in Jesus is like a rebirth. I hate to use this term because it is equated with other religions, but it’s like a spiritual ‘reincarnation.’ In reincarnation, at death the spirit leaves the former body & comes back to a new body. In Salvation, the death comes to the old way of life and a new comes from the inside out. Simply put, we must have faith before we can hold the faith which means we must be saved. Being saved is more than praying a prayer, walking an aisle, signing a card, sitting on a pew, and getting wet. Biblical salvation requires a call from Christ, a commitment to Christ which results in a life changed by Christ. “Old things” pass away and your world view changes.