Summary: If you want God’s favor, don’t treat people with favoritism.
Over 30 years ago, when I was serving on a church staff in the Chicago area, Paul Harvey, the nationally recognized radio personality, attended one of our services. Harvey passed away in 2009 and had a radio show for over 50 years, reaching 26 million people a week. As soon as the service was over, I ignored everyone else and raced down the aisle to introduce myself.
I held out my hand and said, “Hi. My name is Brian. I’m one of the pastors here.” He said, “Paul Harvey. Nice to meet you.” [I was hoping he was going to say, “Good Day,” but he didn’t!] Not really knowing what to say next, I stammered, “I listen to your program every day.” Very perceptively he responded by saying, “Thank you. That must be pretty difficult with a schedule like yours.”
He then turned and left. I felt sick. I had just lied to Paul Harvey—and he knew it! I didn’t listen to his show every day—maybe once a week, but certainly not every day! My encounter with a celebrity left me feeling embarrassed and ashamed.
About five years ago our daughter Lydia and I visited our oldest daughter Emily who was serving as a missionary to at-risk children in the Dominican Republic. I’ll never forget walking up a steep hillside with a number of kids on the way to their village. A young boy reached out to hold my hand. I looked at his hand and saw it was not only dirty but he had open sores on his fingers. I pulled my hand back and tried to act like I didn’t see him.
We’ve all given preference to the preferred while dissing the down and out, haven’t we? If you didn’t know it before, you know it now…I’m inconsistent and hypocritical, just like you are.
As we dive into the second chapter of James, we’ll see God gets riled up when we jump to judgment by giving preference to people. Our main point is this: If you want God’s favor, don’t treat people with favoritism.
Pastor Kyle sure did a super job last weekend helping us see it’s good to hear; it’s better to put it into practice. We’re not to merely listen to the Word but also do what it says. We’re faced today with a call to specific obedience in an area where it’s so easy to excuse and rationalize our attitudes and behavior.
In chapter two, James uses an analytical argument to motivate us not to practice partiality.
• Admonition (1)
• Illustration (2-4)
• Explanation (5-11)
• Application (12-13)
1. Admonition. We see the admonition in James 2:1: “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” Once again, Pastor James of the First Church of Jerusalem reveals his tenderness toward his readers when he calls them “brothers.”
He states these brothers, “hold the faith.” We are brothers and believers, sisters and saints, because we are in the same faith family and on the same team. There is to be no distinction as Paul makes clear in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
James is the half-brother of Jesus but he doesn’t mention this but instead calls Him “the Lord of glory.” Jewish-background believers would have equated this phrase with God’s Shekinah glory, which was on display as the Israelites were led in the desert. John 1:14 says Jesus is God’s glory come down to earth: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Let’s get straight who we are. We are saved sinners who are called to serve Him. And let’s focus on who He is. He is the glorious Lord Jesus Christ. In light of who we are and who He is, we’re admonished to “show no partiality.” This is in the present tense, which means we’re to “stop showing partiality.” It literally means, “to accept the face” of someone. It’s the idea of turning toward the one and turning away from someone else based simply on outward appearance, economic status, skin color or any other kind of discrimination. Let’s define some terms.
• Favoritism is giving unfair preferential treatment to one person or group at the expense of another.
• Discrimination is the practice of treating one person or group of people less fairly than other people or groups.
• Prejudice comes from the words, pre-judge and refers to discriminating against people solely on the basis of outward appearance or skin color.
• Racism is an explicit or implicit belief or practice that qualitatively distinguishes or values one race over other races.