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.