Summary: Snobbery affects us all but is contrary to - the nature of God, - the law of God, - the grace of God, - and the life of God.
The Subtle Sin of Snobbery
In his book, "Stay of Execution", the late Stewart Alsop, columnist, tells of an embarrassing moment when he was in London, on a reporting trip for his column. He had an introduction to Lord Salisbury - he was a powerful figure in those days - and he asked Alsop for the weekend to Hatfield House.
When Alsop arrived he paid off the taxi and timidly rang the doorbell. To his surprise Lady Salisbury answered the bell. With her was an enormous hound, which looked at him in a marked unfriendly fashion and growled.
Lady Salisbury saw that he was nervous. "Don’t worry," she said. "Bobo never bites a gentleman, only the lower classes."
At that point Bobo lunged forward and planted his teeth in Stewart Alsops right calf.
Which just goes to show that snobbery is everywhere – for even dogs can be snobs!
And you will not be surprised to know that this is nothing new, because this is just what James is talking about in our Bible passage from his letter which we was read to us earlier.
Right at the beginning he says ‘my brothers (and sisters) do not show favouritism.’ V1. Or in the older versions, ‘do not show partiality’. And in case we are unclear about he means by this, he makes it very clear with a little illustration. Let’s bring it up-to-date. Just suppose that you are the sidesman today. And you see two people coming down the road to church. One of them is in the latest top of the range Range Rover, with the most beautiful leather trim. The other, is creaking down the road on an ancient mud spattered bicycle. The one in the Range Rover has finely tooled leather shoes beautiful trousers, a tweed jacket to die for with a silk handkerchief in the pocket just so. He reeks money and position. The man on the bicycle it is frankly a little tatty, and there is a slight , but somewhat indeterminate, odour about him.
And the truth of the matter is that if any of us were sidesman today, we would have already sized these people up and our attitude to them would most likely result in a difference in the way that we greeted and seated them.
Now of course, this may be an extreme example. It may not. But the point is made that favouritism, snobbery, and partiality, exists among us.
What James is saying is that it should not be so.
Now we may agree with that in our heads, but we know it is more difficult to put into practice. James then goes on to say why such snobbery should not be present among us.
First of all, he says that is SNOBBERY IS CONTRARY TO THE NATURE OF GOD. God does not behave in this way, and therefore neither should we. In v5 James says that ‘God has chosen those who are poor’. That doesn’t mean that God has chosen the poor over and against the rich, but that he has chosen them equally. For God himself is impartial. And this is a consistent message in the Bible. In Deuteronomy 10:17, we read that ‘God shows no partiality and accepts no bribes’. In the New Testament, when Peter began to realise that the message of Jesus was not just limited to the Jews but was also for the whole world he said in Acts 10:34 ‘ I now realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism, but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right’. And in Romans 2:11, St Paul makes a very clear statement that ‘God does not show favouritism’.
So it is quite clear that is the kind of partiality and snobbery that James was referring to is contrary to the nature of God.
Secondly, James said that favouritism, partiality and snobbery should not be present among us because SNOBBERY IS CONTRARY TO THE LAW OF GOD. James talks about the ‘royal law’ of God, v8, and he says quite clearly that to show partiality or favouritism is to be breaking that law. The royal law is that you should love your neighbour as yourself. And we know from the example of the parable of the good Samaritan that our neighbour includes foreigners and strangers and people we don’t necessarily like. And so if we are to love our neighbour as our self, as the law commands, we are required to love everyone, without exception, without regards to their nationality, or condition or status. That is what the law commands. Another problem is that as human beings we have a tendency to be self deceiving. Sometimes we deceive ourselves by comparison. We deceive ourselves by thinking that we are generally good people, and keep as many of the laws of God as we can. But James is cute to that argument. Because he says v10 ‘. You can’t pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God’s law and ignoring others.’ (The Message) In other words, if you are going to live by the law of God then you must love your neighbour as yourselves. There is no room for manoeuvre. So it is clear that the kind of partiality in snobbery and favouritism the James was referring to is contrary to the law of God.