Summary: 2nd in a 5 part series from the book of James on making practical application to real problems.
RELIGION THAT REALLY WORKS - Week 2
FREE OF FAVORITISM
INTRODUCTION: Video Clip: Shrek 2 - Start: Ch.4-0:12:34 End:0:14:58 = 2:24
What is it that causes prejudice? Why do people show favoritism - treating some better than others? Maybe it’s fear. When others seem strange to us fear of their differences can lead to misunderstandings. Maybe it’s surprise. We tend to think of others like we do ourselves and when we are surprised to find that not everyone is as “normal” as we. Maybe it’s just good old pride. We think of our race, our economic and intellectual standing, our tastes, our looks and our mind set as the acceptable standard. Therefore when someone doesn’t meet our standard we form perceptions that make it hard for us to see through the outer trappings into the person within. And favoritism, prejudice, can happen to anyone in any place.
Mike Breaux, when he was the Sr. Pastor at Southland Christian Church in Lexington, KY, made this point in a dramatic fashion. On the day he was to preach on the very text we’re studying, from James 2, Mike dressed up as a destitute bag lady and entered the Church service just as it began. He was dressed in such a fashion that no one was able to recognize him. He had put on several layers of old, sweaty clothing including a dress, and then put on a straw hat that he pulled down over his face. He stumbled into the service carrying numerous bags, his odor was not pleasant and he sat down in the middle of the auditorium. Now, Southland is a great church but on that day no-one spoke to him as the bag lady. In fact, several cast disgusting glances his way, and some actually got up and moved several seats away from him. When it came time for the sermon there was an awkward silence because nobody knew where Mike was. But all of sudden the bag lady got up and walked toward the platform. When he got to the pulpit he slowly began to take off his garments revealing who he was. The congregation sat in uncomfortable silence. And then Mike said, "Would you please listen as I read James 2:1-4?" “My friends, you must never show favoritism, treating people differently according to their outward appearance. 2 For example, suppose a rich man wearing a gold ring and fine clothes comes to your meeting, and a poor man in ragged clothes also comes. 3If you show more respect to the well-dressed man and say to him, ‘Have this best seat here,’ but say to the poor man, ‘Stand over there, or sit in the back over here,’ 4then you are guilty of creating distinctions among yourselves and of making judgments based on evil motives.”
Now, I am told as he read that passage that the people really squirmed. But Mike was making the vivid point how even the best of people can be partial at times. How would you react? If someone came into our service shabbily dressed, would you snub them? Or- If a couple of another race sits beside you do you smile politely but secretly wish they had sat somewhere else? More importantly, how do you relate on a daily basis to people who are different than you? You see, the Bible makes it very clear that the Church is to be the one place where all class, racial and social barriers are to disappear. This should be a place where different races, genders, economic standing, even lifestyles are accepted. Jesus said in Jn. 13:35: "All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other."(NCV) He didn’t add, "As long as they are not poor, ugly, mentally challenged or racially different." The primary way that the Church is to be distinctive is not so much by what we believe but by how we behave towards others. So as we look at this passage let’s take an honest inventory of our own personal conduct and attitude. Being free of favoritism is one more way that God demonstrates religion that really works.
I. FAVORITISM DEFINED:
First, let’s make sure we understand what James is talking about when he says in vs:1, “You must never show favoritism, treating people differently according to their outward appearance.” The word favoritism comes from two Greek words literally mean "to receive by face." It’s the idea of judging others solely on externals, like clothes, cars or color. We might say it like this: “It’s not right to accept or reject others on face value alone.”
In vss:2-4 James gives an illustration of the kind of favoritism that was practiced in his day, in the Church. He says: “...suppose a rich man wearing a gold ring and fine clothes comes to your meeting, and a poor man in ragged clothes also comes.” Some call this "the case of the near- sighted usher," because he could not see beyond the physical. Now, in our church we emphasize the fact that there is no dress code. We want you to be comfortable. In fact, one of our 5 “R’s” is “relaxed.” But you may know churches where being dressed up is expected and apparently in the time and church James is addressing the way a person was dressed really said something. So, this rich man was really "decked out." He’s immaculately groomed and looking good. He just reeks of money. The text literally describes him as "a gold fingered man." So he’d have diamond rings on his fingers, a gold bracelet, a Rolex Presidential watch and a cross pen with a University of Miami emblem on the top of it. (Something real classy.) But, right behind this GQ guy comes a poor man. Notice James doesn’t say he has no clothes or his clothes are filthy, but ragged. Maybe he’s wearing pants that are too short, his shirt is dirty, & he’s got a Casio watch with a worn leather band.