Summary: Starting this morning, and for the next two weeks, we are going to talk about the issue of partiality, the problem of favoritism, and how we can avoid it in our personal lives and the life of our church.
How To Avoid Partiality (Part 1)
Preached by Pastor Tony Miano
Pico Canyon Community Church
March 18, 2001
Introduction: I know a story of a boy who was about thirteen years old and he loved to play baseball. For the boy, baseball was a place where he could forget about his poverty and forget about his broken home. When he was playing baseball, he didn’t have to spend time blaming himself for his parents’ divorce. He didn’t have to think about the hours he would sit in the backseat of the family car waiting for his dad to come out of the welfare office with this month’s sustenance, hoping that no one he knew drove by.
The boy thought that if he was a good baseball player people would forget about the shabbiness of his clothes with the patches on his knees, the condition of the family car, and the fact that he lived in the only low-income area in town. So the boy practiced relentlessly. He would spend hours throwing baseballs at a small chalk square drawn on a concrete wall until the ball would be soft or even flat on one side. He practiced throwing a curveball until it hurt to set his elbow on the table.
The hard work was paying off. He was getting pretty good and people were starting to notice. So he worked even harder. He determined never to be picked last for the neighborhood games because of how he looked, or where he lived, or the family he came from. Baseball would be the one place where the negative affects of favoritism would not affect him—so he thought.
It was another spring and the Pony League baseball season was about to begin. The boy was determined to make himself known for something other than his circumstances. The boy walked to the mound to pitch the opening game of the season as if he were going to war—him against the rest of the world. By the end of the seventh inning, which was the length of the game for Pony ball, the boy had struck out everyone on the other team at least once and threw a no-hitter.
The boy went on to repeat the feat a few weeks later, throwing a second no-hitter. By the end of the twenty-game season, the youngster had compiled a 10-0 record, with ten complete games, two no-hitters and well over 100 strikeouts. He thought surely it was his turn to be on the receiving end of favoritism.
After the season, it was customary to hand out awards to the best teams and players. The president of the league stood on the mound, microphone in hand, and began to talk about the best pitcher in the league. The boy, who had the season of his young life, started breathing a little heavier as his excitement began to climb. “The league president is going to say my name!” He thought. The boy stood up, anticipating the president’s next words.
The man at the mike announced the name of the best pitcher in the league, but it was someone else—the son of the most respected and popular coach in the league. The other kid was a good pitcher, but the boy who had worked so hard had out-pitched the other kid, striking out eighteen batters, in a game in which the two had faced each other. Once again, the boy found himself on the short end of the favoritism stick.
I would hazard a guess that all of us can relate to how the boy in the story felt. We’ve all been disappointed by the feeling that we’re on the outside looking in—outside at work, outside at home, and, sadly at times, outside of fellowship within the church—because the favoritism we see extended to others isn’t extended to us. We’ve all been there at one time or another. The reasons are many, but the feelings are the same. We’ve all been the boy in the story sometime in our life. I know I have—because I was the boy in the story.
Starting this morning, and for the next two weeks, we are going to talk about the issue of partiality, the problem of favoritism, and how we can avoid it in our personal lives and the life of our church. James speaks at length on this issue in the first half of chapter two of his letter. Follow along as I read the first thirteen verses.
What we see in this passage is a command against favoritism and an illustration to drive home the point (vv. 1-4). This is followed by “three specific reasons why favoritism toward the rich and discrimination against the poor are evil [in God’ eyes]” (Moo, p. 98).
We find the first reason to avoid partiality in verse five and the first part of verse six. Here James explains to his readers how partiality contradicts the heart of God. The second reason is found in the second half of verse six through verse seven. Partiality toward the rich made the believers in the early church seem as though they were over-flattering, even groveling for the attention of the well to do. Partiality trivializes the heart of God. The third reason for avoiding partiality in the church is found in verses eight to thirteen. Here James makes the assertion that to show favoritism brings into question whether or not those involved in such behavior are truly believers. Partiality also violates the Law of God.