Summary: We struggle with the problem of prejudice to one degree or another by an improper focus on the externals. James addresses this problem head-on in James 2:1-13.
The animated movie Shrek celebrates the worth of society’s undervalued people. It revolves around a boorish ogre named Shrek who finds a friend in a talking donkey—creatively named “Donkey”! Shrek unexpectedly falls in love with a princess, whom he and Donkey rescue from a distant castle.
This fairytale spoof emphasizes how people place too much importance on outward appearances.
After freeing the princess, Shrek and Donkey escort her back to the village in keeping with the prince’s orders. Because the journey is long, they decide to camp out. Around the campfire, Donkey talks to Shrek about what life will be like once they return to Shrek’s home in a humble swamp.
Looking up at the sky, Donkey asks, “Hey Shrek, what are we going to do when we get back to our swamp, anyway?”
“Our swamp?” Shrek challenges. “There’s no our. There’s just me and my swamp, and the first thing I’m going to do is build a ten-foot wall around my land.”
Donkey is surprised. He thought they had developed a friendship that would result in sharing their lives and possessions once the quest was over.
“You cut me deep, Shrek!” Donkey confesses. “You cut me real deep just now. You know what I think? This whole wall thing is just a way to keep somebody out.”
The two argue and exchange verbal jabs. At last Donkey asks, “Who are you trying to keep out? Just tell me that, okay?”
“Everyone! Okay?” Shrek exclaims.
“Hey, what’s your problem, Shrek? What you got against the whole world, anyway?”
The huge ogre seems almost childlike as he candidly explains, “I’m not the one with the problem. It’s the whole world that seems to have a problem with me. People take one look at me and go, ‘Ahhh! Help! Run! It’s a big, stupid, ugly ogre!’ They judge me before they even know me. That’s why I’m better off alone.”
Donkey says to Shrek, “You know what? When we first met, I didn’t think you were just a big, stupid, ugly ogre.”
“Yeah, I know,” Shrek acknowledges with gratitude. For the first time he realizes someone has looked beyond his outward appearance and accepted him.
That is what James is addressing in today’s text. So, with that in mind, let’s read James 2:1-13:
"1 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 there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
"5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?
"8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 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.
"12 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!" (James 2:1-13)
The late Max Cadenhead, when he was pastor of First Baptist Church in Naples, Florida, riveted his congregation one day with a bold confession.
“My message today is on the parable of the Good Samaritan,” Max announced. “Let me start with an illustration.
“Remember last year when the Browns came forward to join the church?” he asked.
Everyone nodded; the Browns were a very influential family.
“Well, the same day a young man came forward and gave his life to Christ. I could tell he needed help—and we counseled him.” No one nodded; no one remembered.
“We worked with the Browns, got them onto committees. They’ve been wonderful folks,” Cadenhead said to muffled amens. “The young man—well, we lost track.
“Until yesterday, that is, as I was preparing today’s message on the Good Samaritan. I picked up the paper, and there was that young man’s picture. He had shot and killed an elderly woman.”