My maternal grandparents were raised on dirt farms in Oklahoma. The dust bowl and the depression contributed to their being so impoverished that they had to send my mother, who was disabled, to a spinster aunt who lived in Enid and could more easily afford to care for her. Their fortunes changed when my grandfather "invented" grease wrap and became the exclusive shipper for Army supplies west of the Mississippi during World War II. After the war he made a fortune shipping all the things people had purchased that hadn’t been shipped because all shipping had been dedicated to the war effort.
Despite their wealth, my grandparents were never accepted in the Old Money society in Dallas. They sold their shipping business and moved to Ruidoso, NM, where they were the only money, new or old, in town.
You may be like me and find the snobbery of those Old Money people objectionable. But, we can be guilty of the same sort of snobbery in the church. Much in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians addresses that specific problem.
Barna reports that the slide in church membership in America continued through last year. He also reports that, while Americans appear to be more interested in spiritual things, they are less likely to affiliate with a church. 70% of the largest churches in America are nondenominational.
I think a significant reason for these statistics is snobbery in the church.
Jesus spoke to the church snobs of his day when he said, (Mt. 23:13-36)
Our denominational distinctives contribute to the diversity we find in the church in America. God Created diversity. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men (ICOR12:5,6). Diversity causes us to continually examine ourselves and to grow. A healthy diversity in our churches leads to a healthy prosperity in our churches.
But, when denominational distinctives degenerate into divisive snobbery, competition, self-righteousness and discrimination, diversity in our churches leads to adversity in our churches.
There was a time when country clubs were bastions of Old Money snobbery. Old Money was readily accepted and invited into the full rights of membership and service in the local country club. New money (or no money) was not readily accepted or invited to the full rights of membership and service in the country club. Tiger Woods still can’t play at some country clubs.
James 2:1-4 could easily be addressed to those country clubs. But God isn’t speaking to any country club that has become a bastion of snobbery in these verses. God is speaking to the church in James 2:1-4.
God is speaking to the Baptist church that has become a bastion of Old Baptist snobbery.
God is speaking to the Methodist church that has become a bastion of Old Methodist snobbery.
God is speaking to the Assembly of God church that has become a bastion of Old Assembly of God snobbery.
God is speaking to the Presbyterian church that has become a bastion of Old Presbyterian snobbery.
God is speaking to the Lutheran church that has become a bastion of Old Lutheran snobbery.
God is speaking to every church that has become a bastion of Old Church snobbery.
Here’s a story that illustrates what happens when the church becomes a bastion of snobbery...THE LIFE SAVING STATION
On a dangerous sea coast where ship wrecks often occur there was once a crude little lifesaving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves they went out, day or night, tirelessly searching for the lost. Many lives were saved by this wonderful little station, so that it became famous. Some of those who were saved, and various others in surrounding areas, wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time and money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews were trained. The little lifesaving station grew.
Some of the new members of the lifesaving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and so poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. So they replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in an enlarged building. Now the lifesaving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they redecorated it beautifully and furnished it exquisitely, because they used it as a sort of club. Less of the members were now interested in going to sea on lifesaving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do this work. The lifesaving motif still prevailed in the club decoration, and there was a liturgical lifesaving boat in the room where initiation took place. About this time, a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boats loaded with cold, wet, and half drowned people. They were dirty and sick and some had black skin and some had yellow skin. The beautiful new club was considerably messed up. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where the victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up before coming inside.