Summary: The church does not and should not have a caste system. The church is not a place of racism nor classism, yet why are we not growing?
The sins of Favoritism
(Instruction: Come in dressed well)
Jesus Christ is the Lord who left the glory of heaven and came to this corruptible world to save sinners like us. He humbled himself, laid aside His position in heaven, and became like us. He was born is dire poverty so that we might have the riches of heaven. He did so because He loved us. If Jesus loved us this way, then we who are believers and followers of Him should not act differently. We must love the poor and the lowly just as He did. All followers of Jesus must do what He did, humble ourselves, and reach out to bring ALL men to Him so that they may be saved. We must reach out to the rich as well as the poor.
1) There was a problem with favoritism/prejudice in the 1st century and there still is today in the 21st century. It was a Jew/Gentile problem as well as a rich/poor problem.
Behind the line in World War I, rest homes were operated which were designed to serve as places of fellowship for all soldiers – whether officers or enlisted men. Over the entrance of such houses were posted these words” Abandon all rank, ye who enter here.” So must it be in the church. (Shelly 25)
(3) Let us note what James has to say about this problem:
2) As for the Jew/Gentile problem, James addressed it in Acts 15. The Jerusalem council had decided to welcome the Gentiles into the church with a few conditions. There is nothing in the conditions that did not apply also to the Jews. They sought unity in the church.
General Robert E. Lee was a devout follower of Jesus Christ. It is said that soon after the end of the American Civil War, he visited a church in Washington, D.C. During the communion service, he knelt beside a black man. An onlooker said to him later, "How could you do that?" Lee replied, "My friend, all ground is level beneath the cross."
In this passage, James is showing us the error of favoritism. There are five sins connected with the favoritism:
1. Showing partiality or favoritism sets one up as the judge of men. It makes one as though he or she is God. We tell who can and cannot worship God, we decide who is and who is not acceptable to God. This is something only God can do.
i. Jesus told us (Matthew 7:1)
ii. Paul reminds us (Romans 14:4)
iii. James says elsewhere (James 4:12)
In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi wrote that during his student days he read the Gospels seriously and considered converting to Christianity. He believed that in the teachings of Jesus he could find the solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India.
So one Sunday he decided to attend services at a nearby church and talk to the minister about becoming a Christian. When he entered the sanctuary, however, the usher refused to give him a seat and suggested that he go worship with his own people. Gandhi left the church and never returned. "If Christians have caste differences also," he said, "I might as well remain a Hindu." That usher’s prejudice not only betrayed Jesus but also turned a person away from trusting Him as Savior.
2. Showing favoritism/partiality reveals evil thoughts
a. Those who show favoritism are focused on the perishable. In this case it is wealth and social status. Yet there is another way, one that is more repulsive to us, probably because it is more obvious. How would we appear if we did not allow a person of color in our congregation? Now you may sit there and say “We would not do that.” Yet I would ask you, “How do you make the people of color in your community feel welcome to come to your services?” Do we go and invite them, make them feel welcome? If we would do this for people of color, why not people who are dirty, poor, wretched, or high maintenance.
A friend of mine, George Hall is in the process of writing articles for the Restoration Herald. George is a church planter presently working in South Parkersburg, WV. His article has to do with church growth. In it he describes why smaller churches stay that way. He calls them ingrown churches. I know that sounds painful, when I see that title I think of ingrown toenails. The idea is not far from that. He identifies a problem in such congregations. It is the problem James addresses in this passage. Ingrown churches say they want to grow, and they may genuinely want to. But they want to attract people like them. In some cases it may be only people of color, or people of a certain ethnic background. Yet what they do not want are people who are “high maintenance.” George goes on to describe high maintenance people. These are people who may be lower middle class, or upper lower class financially, dress differently, have various emotional baggage. They may be single parents, dysfunctional families, may even have mixed ethnicity. The ingrown churches make these people feel unwelcomed in various ways. Maybe the people around them showed themselves to be uneasy or uncomfortable around them. Maybe they ignore, neglect or even shun them. They may even fail to greet them when they are there. Yet when they stop coming, no one goes to see why. They justify themselves by saying; “They will be more comfortable with their own kind.”