Summary: If you want God's favor, don't treat people with favoritism.
Something very interesting happened on Monday night when people who normally hate on the Packers were suddenly on their side when a blown call by the replacement officials gave the win to the Seahawks. Even Bear fans expressed sympathy to me all week. Well, except for one guy who called me a whiner.
As I contemplated this, I came to one of two conclusions. Either more people are Packer Backers than I thought, or more likely, no one likes it when officials are awful or when judges don’t dispense justice. We get riled up when the wrong call is made because we want things to be fair.
This morning as we dive into the second chapter of James, we’re going to see that God gets riled up when we jump to judgment. Our main point today is this: If you want God’s favor don’t treat people with favoritism. To show favoritism is a denial of our faith.
Here’s where we’re headed today:
• Be consistent with everyone (1-4)
• Recognize your own contradictions (5-7)
• Develop compassion for all (8-13)
Be Consistent with Everyone
Let’s look at James 2:1: “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.” Once again, Pastor James of the First Church of Jerusalem reveals his tenderness toward his readers when he calls them “brothers.” This is his preferred way of addressing them as he does so 15 times in this brief book. He also calls them “believers.” We are brothers and believers because we are in the same family and on the same team. There is therefore to be no distinction as Paul makes clear in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Would you notice next how he refers to Jesus? James is the half-brother of Jesus but he doesn’t make mention of this at all. Instead James calls Him “glorious.” Jewish-background believers would have equated this with God’s Shekinah glory that was on display as the Israelites were led in the desert. John 1:14 says that Jesus is God’s glory come down to earth: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Let’s get straight who we are. We are brothers and believers. 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 told how to treat others: “Don’t show favoritism.” This is in the present tense which means we’re to “stop showing favoritism.” To show favor literally means, “to accept the face” of someone. It’s the idea of turning toward the one and turning away from the other based on outward appearance.
To show favoritism is incompatible with our faith because Acts 10:34 says: “God does not show favoritism.” God is the ultimate umpire according to 1 Peter 1:17 because “He judges each man’s work impartially.” As ones who claim His name He expects us to treat people fairly as Leviticus 19:15 says, “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” Warren Wiersbe nails it when he says: The way we behave toward people indicates what we really believe about God.
As a good preacher, James makes his point that we are not to show partiality and then he illustrates it so that it sinks in a bit deeper. Look at verse 2: “Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in.” We’ve arranged for one of the most famous football players to be in the service today. He’s waiting out in the lobby right now and I’m wondering if we could find NFL Quarterback Tim Tebow a seat up front. Would anyone be willing to give up their chair for him? I’ll open the doors so he can come in. Most of you looked toward the doors, didn’t you?
When someone wore a gold ring back then they did so to let others know they were rich. The text literally reads, “a gold-fingered man.” Fine clothes were often bright and flashy, sometimes with silver sewn into them so they glistened in the sunlight. I googled “most expensive suit” this week and found a suit made from a blend of Cashmere wool and silk that contains over 480 diamonds. Each gem is half a carat for a total of 240 carats of bling. It sells for $943,000. If someone came in here wearing that they would stand out for sure.
In contrast, how would you feel if a poor person came in the doors wearing the only set of clothes he owns? The word for “shabby” means vile, dirty and disheveled. Historians estimate that up to 90% of Palestinians back then were considered poor and would have worn homemade clothing. When Beth and I were in Israel a few months ago, we saw a modern-day shepherd on the hills of Bethlehem dressed in very raggedy clothes that were soiled and torn.