Summary: What is it that you really deserve today? Is it mercy we deserve because we've shown mercy to others. Or are we judges with evil thoughts who discriminate against others. Are we ones who judge by the outward appearances...or do we reflect the glory..the
THE CHARACTER OF FAITH
JAMES 2:1 13
A Chinese man and a Jewish man were eating lunch together. Suddenly, without warning the Jew gets up, walks over to the Chinese fellow and smashes him in the mouth, sending him sprawling.
The Chinese man picks himself up, rubs his jaw and asks, "What in the world did you do that for?" The answer came back: "That's for Pearl Harbor!" The guy was totally shocked and said, "Pearl Harbor? I didn't have anything to do with Pearl Harbor. It was the Japanese that bombed Pearl Harbor!"
The Jew responded, "Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese they're all the same to me." With that they both sit down again, but before long the Chinese man gets up, walks over to the Jew and sends him flying with a hard smack to the jaw.
The Jew yells out, "What did you do that for?" And the answer came back: "That's for the Titanic." "The Titanic? Why, I didn't have anything to do with the Titanic!" The Chinese man replied, "Goldberg, Steinberg, Iceberg...they're all the same to me."
You shouldn't laugh at that...because that is just the type of thing James refers to in the first part of chapter 2. This morning we're going to look at the subject of discrimination...partiality...of making decisions about people based solely on appearances or wrong motives. James uses a different story but one that's just as up to date.
READ James 2:1 13 Pray
James closed out chapter 1 with a discussion of religion. And we saw from that passage that being a Christian is not conforming your outward behavior to some religious pattern.
This morning we are going to look at an important subject that James uses to illustrate that very fact. One Sunday morning two strangers come into church. We know they're strangers because they don't know where to sit, and need someone to find them a place.
One guy has all the outward indications that he's got big bucks...and he gets ushered into a seat. But the other guy...who has the appearance of one who lives in a cardboard box on a city street, has to stand...or a best, he has to squat on a stool, probably in the corner somewhere. And the obvious reason for this discrimination is appearance. One looks important...the other like a bum or an outcast.
Making judgments on appearance is something we do so often I doubt we even think much about it...and that may be the biggest part of the problem...not thinking! But we do show a great deal of partiality. If someone is a different race, or religion, or economical status we often share the same type of feelings the Jewish and the Chinese man did.
I guess what makes it okay for us is that we most often do it in the form of a joke. But humor almost always contains some element of truth. It reveals a lot about our heart when we use crude terms to describe certain ethnic groups or the social status of others.
But before we look deeper into this, I want to give an example of what partiality, the kind James is speaking of, is not. It would not be showing partiality to offer the last remaining seat to an elderly person and to ask a young person to stand or maybe sit on the floor. Why? Because the elderly command respect and considerate attention (Lev. 19:32).
Or if the President of the United States or maybe the Queen of England would come to worship with us...it would be only natural to give them the best seat. And again, that would be obeying Scripture...(Prov. 24:21a; 1 Peter 2:17).
But its one thing to acknowledge the dignity of position or age...but its another thing altogether to be swayed by the mere chance that the guy has some worldly advantage, like money, while the other doesn't.
The sin of partiality is the sin of judging by the externals...and as James notes, it always bears down on the poor and the disadvantaged. But why is it a sin? This question brings us to a very curious piece of Greek which James uses to begin ch. 2.
Now, English versions smooth it out one way or the other...but this verse makes reference to the "glorious Lord." This word glory is actually a descriptive modifier...which means it is used as a name for Christ...our Lord who is the glory.
The use of this title by James reflects Jewish thought about the Shekinah. Have you ever heard of the Shekinah before? It's a word not found in the Bible but it was used often in rabbinical literature. The rabbis used the word Shekinah when speaking of the glorious manifestation of the presence of God with His people.
In Exodus 33 we find Moses all bummed out about the Israelites. A good paraphrase of his thoughts about them would be that they were a people who could mess up a soup sandwich. And he's getting worried about the future. He needed some encouragement so he begged God to show him His glory.