Summary: James tells us the story of a rich man and a poor man who came to church one day. One appeared to be a winner – the other a loser. How should a group of losers who have been made winners by Christ treat such people?
No body likes a loser. Have you ever seen a losers circle at the racetrack? When is the last time you saw the runner-up on a box of Wheaties? People generally think little of losers. That makes it all the more hurtful to some when someone like Ted Turner is quoted as saying, “Christianity is for losers.” But the irony of that statement is right in a way. Christianity is for losers. Without Christ we were all losers in eternity. We came from a place called lost, everyone of us. True Christians recognize that we once were all losers in eternity but Christ alone makes us winners. That realization must change the way we treat other people!
With that truth in mind, James tells us the story of a rich man and a poor man who came to church one day. One appeared to be a winner – the other a loser. How should a group of losers who have been made winners by Christ treat such people?
I. THE PREJUDICE
James 2:1-2 makes it plain that while we should not, we often do judge people by external qualifications.
A. We Judge People By Their Appearance - Just as the congregation in James 2 judged two visitors by how they looked we often do the same thing.
B. We Judge People By Their Achievements - The poor man appeared to having nothing going for him while the rich man had the world by the tail. Too often the church is guilty of looking for worldly winners to promote the gospel.
C. We Judge People By Their Ancestry - Where did they come from? What is their race? Are they from old money or new money?
D. We Judge People By Their Affections - What do they like? Who do they like?
In the end, none of these mean anything to God nor should they to those who have been redeemed by God! We are not winners because of how we look, or what we have done. We are not winners because of where we come from or what we like. We are winners because of the grace of God shown in the mercy of His Son Jesus Christ.
II. THE PRINCIPLES
A. Favoritism is Ungodly (vv.3-4)
In short, this is just not compatible with the heart of God. Faith in God and favoritism toward man are incompatible. The word "favoritism" is used only four times in the Bible and every time it’s referring to God. Each one of those passages say, “God does not play favorites.” (see Romans 2:11)
Jesus played no favorites. He ignored status symbols. Christ had no problem chastening the respected Pharisees and welcoming beggars and paupers. He ignored social divisions by touching Nicodemus and a Samaritan woman.
From lowest to highest in man’s eyes we are all on an equal plain in God’s eyes and should be that way with each other. That is why we are told that in Christ, “there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, nor free, but Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:9-11).
James 2:1 and 4 indicate that Favoritism is a lack of faith in God. As one paraphrase puts it, “Wouldn’t you agree this kind of partiality betrays your attempts at sincere faith?” It is impossible for us to build a real, vital faith if we put more stock in people than we do in God. Do we show more favor to some because it seems they can offer more to the church? Do we ignore others because it seems they have little to offer? If so that is ungodly! It does not reflect the grace that God showed us. We were all losers in need of His mercy to make us winners.
B. Favoritism is Unreasonable (vv.5-7)
James starts verse five with these words, “Listen, my beloved brethren.” James is saying, “Pay attention now!” Remember when your mother used your middle name. She was getting your attention. That is what James is doing.
It doesn’t even make sense to think we need certain people to make the church click. Aren’t some of those worldly winners the very ones that seek to ridicule Christ as His church? Someone once said, “You don’t have to know the key men if you know the Man who holds the keys.” He has a way of opening and closing doors regardless of your network or your contacts. It doesn’t make any sense to show favorites if it is God we trust in and not man.
C. Favoritism is unloving (v.8)
Verse eight says, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well.” What James is saying is, “If we had this kind of love we wouldn’t need all of the rest of the Law.” God’s kind of love is the key to” the Christian life! That is why Jesus said, ’You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ’You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 22:36-40). Paul put it even more succinctly: "All the law is summed up in one sentence, `Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Galatians 5:14). The Bible says that how we relate to other people shows how much we really love God. How I relate to you proves how much I love God.