Summary: James tells us that pure religion sees the ground as level at the foot of the cross.
“Honor God by accepting each other, as Christ has accepted you.” - Romans 15:7 (CEV)
In discussing “pure religion,” James shares the same idea as Paul. Pure religion recognizes the “ground is level at the foot of the cross.”
1. An exhortation - v. 1
By addressing his readers as “my brothers,” and referring to their faith in “our Lord Jesus Christ,” James clearly acknowledges his audience as born again believers. And the exhortation, “Don’t show favoritism,” could be understood to refer to an existing transgression that should be stopped (see v. 6). But it could also refer to a practice that James wants to encourage to be true of all believers everywhere.
Of special interest is the title given to Jesus by James, his half-brother. Literally, it reads, “our Lord Jesus Christ, the glory.” This title is an obvious reference to the deity of Christ. But of what significance is this with reference to not showing favoritism in the church?
“Religious experts judged Jesus by human standards, and rejected Him. He came from the wrong city, Nazareth of Galilee. He wasn’t a graduate of an accepted school. He didn’t have the approval of the people in power. He had no wealth. His followers included
publicans and sinners. Yet, He was the very glory of God! No wonder Jesus warned them, ‘Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment’ (John 7:24, NIV).
Sadly, we often make the same mistake. When visitors come into our churches, we judge them on what we see outwardly rather than what they are inwardly. Dress, color of skin, fashion, and other
superficial things carry more weight than the fruit of the Spirit manifest in their lives. We cater to the rich because we hope to get something out of them, and avoid the poor because they embarrass us. Jesus did not do this, and He cannot approve of it.
We need to look at everyone through the eyes of Christ. If he is a Christian, we accept him because Christ lives in him. If he is not a Christian, we accept him because Christ died for Him. It is Christ who is the link between us and others, and He is a link of love.” - Warren Wiersbe
We honor the person and work of Christ by not showing favoritism.
2. An illustration - vs. 2-4
Two men enter a meeting. One is wealthy and the other poor. The wealthy man is given a good place to sit. The poor man is directed to stand or sit by the speaker’s feet (speakers in those days sat as they taught - Matthew 5:1). Obviously, the wealthy man was escorted to the back pew, while the poor man was escorted to the front! The point is that clear discrimination was being practiced.
By doing this, a church shows themselves to be “judges with evil thought.” We would think it wrong if a judge in a court of law lets his decision be swayed by superficial matters, such as someone’s wealth or standing in the community, instead of the essential facts of the case. It’s no less wrong for Christians to base treatment of others on superficial matters of economic, social, or racial difference and ignore the essential fact that we’re all sinners in need of the mercy of a holy God.
God likes diversity. For example, no two snowflakes are alike. Each is a hexagon with six tips forming a symmetrical design, yet, no
duplicates! Likewise, we have diversity as human beings with our ethnic and cultural differences. Yet, we share similarities. All have the same anatomical structure, the same emotions, the same needs, and the same sinful nature. So, we are all in need of the same
salvation. We are all sinners who need the mercy of a holy God.
Because God recognizes our common sin and our common need for salvation, He loves us all the same; and for these same reasons, we should show no favoritism in our relationships with one another.
3. An explanation - vs. 5-11
A. The way of salvation - v. 5
“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things - and the things that are not - to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God - that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let the one who boasts