Summary: God show no partiality--we are all equals before God.
Sermon for 13 Pent Yr B, 7/09/2003
Prov 22:1-2,8-9,22-23 & James 2:1-10,14-17
Grace Lutheran Church, Medicine Hat, Alberta
By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
“Those who are generous are blessed…” says our passage from Proverbs.
A woman stopped by the pastor’s office with some good news. She had won $10 million in the lottery. But she had a problem. Her husband had a bad heart. Right now, he was feeling all right, but she didn’t know if she should tell him about winning $10 million. She was afraid that the excitement of the news might kill him. The pastor said to her, “Let me speak with your husband. I wouldn’t tell him about what has happened—about the $10 million! I will just, from speaking with him, try to determine if he could handle the news!” The pastor went to their home, and after speaking with this man alone for a few minutes, the pastor said to him, “Let me ask you a hypothetical question. What would you do if you were given $10 million?” To this the man replied, “It is no use to even think about such things. It is never going to happen.” But the pastor persisted. He said, “Humor me! What would you do with $10 million?” The man said, “Since I am in such poor health, it would do me no good, so I would just give it away—I would give it to the church!” Hearing this, the pastor had a heart attack and died. 1
Although the man thought he was responding to only a hypothetical situation; nonetheless it reflects a surprising generosity towards the church, which others in the same position might act quite differently by being less generous towards the church.
In both our passages from Proverbs and from James, we have the case for God showing no favouritism, no partiality. Proverbs reminds us that it is proper to show a spirit of generosity towards others, especially the poor, since they, along with all other human beings are also God’s people, created by God. It is a human trait, likely under the influence of sin, which always seeks to make distinctions and divide people up by class, race, gender, intelligence, physical looks, nationality, ethnicity, marital status, along with a million other distinctions and divisions.
Obviously in biblical times it was no different, since there are several biblical passages (see, e.g., Matt. 22:16; Mk. 12:14; Lk. 20:21; Rom. 2:11; Eph. 6:9; Col. 3:25; Acts 10:34) addressing such distinctions and divisions and, in some cases strongly speaking out against them—as does our brother James in today’s second lesson. James, as well as our Proverbs passage clearly state that in God’s eyes and presence WE ARE ALL EQUALS. According to Proverbs it is because we are all created by God that makes us equals; while according to James the foundation of Christian equality and inclusiveness is rooted in what he calls “the royal law,” that is, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” If we as a people of faith do not lose sight of these truths, then it is more difficult to practice favouritism and partiality. If we really see every human being created by God like us; if we really love ourselves and therefore are able to love our neighbour, then such divisions and distinctions will fall out of practice.
Racist thinking separates one group of people from others, favors that group over and against people who are different, and when a real or imagined threat to the favored people is perceived, can justify any activity to assure their safety and security.
When a particular group is blinded with its own identity, its thinking and perceptions can become distorted through an intellectual game of progression: “We are different. It is normal that other people persecute us and hate us because we are different from them. We are better than they are; they are lower than we are. We are of more value, they are of less value.” This thinking is extremely dangerous.
People commit suicide when they believe in their pure blood. They kill others with themselves, pushing the concept of their rightness and value above other consideration. 2
Today we see the reality of this being played out far too often in our world as terrorists are prepared to do almost anything to kill innocent people.
In the most lucid and inspiring moments of the biblical writers and in the most authentic practice of the Christian faith, we see that there is no room for favouritism, partiality, divisions and distinctions of people. The following story illustrates this in a most beautiful way.
The Teacher sat around a blazing fire with a small number of students late at night. Their meandering conversation was broken by periods of silence when they all gazed at the stars and the moon. Following one of these periods when no one spoke the Teacher asked a question. “How can we know when the night has ended and the day has begun?”