Summary: We cannot keep the faith if we show partiality.
Mahatma Ghandi was touched by the gospel when he was young. He hoped that the gospel would free India from its Caste system. He went to a church in his neighborhood and was met at the door, dressed in his humble lower class clothes. He was met by ushers who told him that there were other churches for “people like him.” Ghandi turned away from any further examination of Christianity because in his evaluation, it contained its own caste system. That story is told in the book “Growing More Like Jesus,” by Richard Strauss.”
Ghandi’s experience is an illustration of what James warns us about in James 2.
“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” (James 2:1–9, ESV)
Favoritism can be seen in a church when new members are treated as “outsiders”
Favoritism can be seen in a church when members only associate with People Like Us
Favoritism can be seen in a church when young people ignore or ridicule thoseo less popular
Favoritism can be seen in a church when poorer members look down on wealthy members, assuming they are snobs.
I. Favoritism is Excluded from the Christian Faith.
This is a STRONG COMMAND. John MacArthur points out that the word order is emphatic. "With respect of persons, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ the glory." So James is saying in quite clear terms, “if you are going to show favoritism, don’t claim to be a Christian!”
The words “Show partiality” mean to “lift up somebody's face, to raise the face of someone, to elevate them, to lift up their face.” The idea is to judge someone by the face .... superficial evaluation of a person's worth based on nothing but what appears on the outside (MaCarthur)
This Christmas, the cast of Duck Dynasty came to NYC. They had a room in the Plaza and one of the Robertsons walked into the hotel and asked a doorman to show him the nearest bathroom. He led him to a door that exited directly to the street. Was it his shaggy beard? His blue jeans? Robertson called it “facial profiling.” The attendant did not know this important guest, so on the basis of the way he looked, he assumed that he was not a hotel patron.
We cannot “keep the faith” if we show partiality.
Favoritism can be shown in Many Ways
The illustration that James uses to teach these troubled Jewish believers is an illustration about the way the church assembly hypothetically show honor to a rich man while showing dishonor to a poor man. James 2:2-3
The word “synagogue” is used here and translated “assembly” in most English translations. This word usage reflects James’ Jewish audience. However, this could be ANY CHURCH TODAY!
Here’s the picture James portrays. A man enters the assembly with a “Gold Ring.” Even more than today, in the first century rings were a sign of WEALTH, success and accomplishment. In Luke 15, when the son returned, the FATHER put a RING on his finger. Rings were a sign of acceptance and wealth. People wore them as “bling.” The word here may in fact mean that he had rings on all of his fingers - a clear sign of someone who wanted others to know that he was an important and wealthy person.
You could “rent rings” to go to parties so that people would think that you are rich.
Many people wore RINGS, but Gold Rings were VERY RARE
“Clement of Alexander some time later said Christians should only wear one ring and on that ring it should have a dove, a fish, or an anchor to be used as a seal. That was a reaction against some of this abuse.” (MacArthur)