Summary: In our treatment of people, we must see all people as equally valuable rather than treating some better than others because of how they might benefit us.
“Do you play favorites?”
June 27, 1999
Everybody has favorites. [Ask different people in the congregation what their favorite items are in these categories: food, ice cream, car, color, time of year, holiday]. When I was growing up, my mom had it pretty easy whenever she was getting food for me. My favorite flavor of ice cream whether it was in the form of a cone or in the form of a milkshake was vanilla. Nothing unique or unusual - just vanilla. And my favorite kind of sandwich was bologna. She kept trying to get me to eat something different, but I always asked for bologna. It was my favorite.
Having favorites can create problems though. When we were in school, there was always at least one person who was accused of being the teacher’s favorite - the teacher’s pet. This was the person who always volunteered to hand out papers for the teacher, or who got the best grades, and was always trying to be a brown-noser. One of the pieces of advice that most new parents receive is to make sure that you don’t play favorites when you have more than one kid. When Ben was born, Tammy and I made sure that we continued to pay a lot of attention to Victoria so tha she wouldn’t think that we favored Ben more than her since he was the new kid in the house. Playing favorites among your kids can create real problems. Do you remember the story of Joseph. He was the eleventh of 12 children, and he was his dad’s favorite. To make sure that everyone knew how much he valued his son, his dad gave Joseph a special coat - a coat of many colors. That was pretty unique since many colors in those days consisted of different shades of brown. His brothers hated him for it and actually ended up selling him into slavery. Favoritism and the jealousy it creates can cause an awful lot of pain.
Favoritism can enter into our lives in our relationships with other people both outside the church and inside the church. The passage of the Bible that we’re going to examine this morning talks about favoritism particulary within the church, but the truths that we will find impact every area of our lives. The main thing that I want us to see this morning is this: In our relationships with people, both inside the church and outside, we must not allow our actions and attitudes toward them to be determined by how we think their presence can benefit our organization or us personally. I can’t allow my feelings toward you or desire to build a relationship with you to be determined by what I can get from you. That’s the issue that James is going to help us deal with this morning.
I. There are theological reasons for not showing favoritism (vs. 1)
a. We are all equal in God’s eyes - “brothers”
A little over a week ago, I was at the SBC. There were pastors there of churches the same size as ours, and there were pastors there of churches with a membership of over 20,000 people. Pastors who were authors and had radio and TV ministries. How do you think they would have reacted had I tried to enter into a normal conversation with them or if I had a different interpretation of a biblical passage than they did?
James was the pastor of the church at Jerusalem, very large church; he was also the half-brother of Jesus. Either fact had the potential of causing him to think that he was more important than the common person in the church. But he addressed the readers as “brothers” - equals.
Gal 3:26-29 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,
for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
It has been said that death is the great equalizer. We were all born the same way, and we will all die. What happened in between those two events will be relatively insignifigant in God’s great plan. God created each of us, and one day, each of us will have to stand before Him to give account for how we used the life that He gave us. In God’s eyes, we are equals.
b. We all come to Jesus the same way - “as believers”
We all got to our relationship with God through the same door - humbly admitting our sinfulness and placing our faith in Jesus Christ to pay for that sin through His sacrificial death on the cross. Ephesians 2:8-9 “. . . lest any man should boast.” Can you imagine what heaven would be like if we got there through our own efforts? [relate skit about persons who boast about the way that they got to heaven] Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father except by me.” (John 14:6) Before coming to Jesus, we all had the same destination - hell. Jesus came and rescued us not because of anything that we had special about us, but because of His great love for us.