Summary: don’t assume that one person is more important than another – don’t treat people differently.
OPEN: So today we are going to continue our expository study through the book of James and this morning we are starting into chapter two of this marvelous book. This morning Pastor James -- the pastor of the church in Jerusalem - wants to talk to us about the issue of favoritism in the church. James wants to address a particular problem he apparently has in his church. (ill of always wanting to get back to the first century church -- I sometimes wonder if people really know what they are requesting -- once you get beyond the first couple of weeks, the early church had as many problems in it as the modern church does) Being the Church has never been an easy thing. That's because we are all in the process of being changed -- changed from what we were to what Jesus wants us to become.
Context: Now as we start we want to remind ourselves of the context of what James has been saying. The last two verses of James 1 set the stage for this main point first with a word about worthless religion; (a faith that doesn't work) then with a word about true religion. He's trying to show his congregation how faith works in real life. So first he gives a picture of a worthless faith -- a faith that doesn't work: - If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. If you can't control your tongue -- the way you talk to others -- your kind of faith is useless -- it doesn't work -- you'll never change your world, if you don't learn how to control your tongue. -- if you use profanity -- if you slander people -- if you gossip -- your faith is worthless.
So then he contrasts that with a faith that God blesses: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. Faith that works has two aspects to it: There is an internal personal aspect of purity. Keeping one's self from being polluted and corrupted by the world in which we live. Don't be stained by the world -- you have to live in a very determined way if you are going to be unpolluted. And then there is an external aspect of focusing on others. There is a commitment to serving others. -- the church is to be recognized by it's commitment to serving others. - this is what God wants from the Church, right? No matter what your experience has been in Church -- this is what God says he wants the Church to be about. So what else is there to talk about?
Now when we come to chapter two -- he wants to address the specifics of this issue in his congregation.
My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. (James 2:1)
I kind of think the issue James is address in his church is that there was only the pretense of caring for others. I think the people cared for others -- but they cared more for a certain kind of "others" The -- "others" who had money. That's the issue he wants to address.
Don't show favoritism (respector of persons) - don't assume that one person is more important than another -- don't treat people differently. I like the way he qualifies this teaching (as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ) - very important - if you are a believer that in heaven there is this person in heaven who dwells in unapproachable light. If you know anything of his holiness and justice and wisdom and omnipotence and omniscience and omnipresent -- the fact that he does not change -- if you anything of his eternality -- his sovereignty - His love, His grace, His mercy, His faithfulness, His goodness and the fact that his eye is always upon you and he promises to never leave or forsake you or abandon you. That each loves each one of us as if there were only one of us -- we would be awe -- then you should not show favoritism in people. - there is not different levels of people -- there is God and there are people -- that's it - as believers there should not be any distinction among ourselves.
The word translated "favoritism" comes from two words--"to receive" and "face." "To receive by face" is to evaluate a person on the basis of surface characteristics. James warns, "Don't just look at a person's face, or outward appearance. Don't be biased in your judgment by clothing, wealth, or position!" Ill of young man who walked into a church (It took me a long while to get him there -- arrived early- first one in the sanctuary -- felt very nervous -- and usher walked up to him and said we don't wear hats here -- he got embarrassed and walked out of the church. The message he heard: "You're not one of us"