Series on James, II Works, A Favoritism, Text: 2:1-13 Title: Playing Favorites. - NEW


Favoritism plays a large role in our society. Though we have a Christian heritage and though our government supposedly recognizes our equality under the law, that's not the way the world works. In recent prominent jury trials the press has raised the question as to whether a poor man could get the same defense as the rich who were on trial. Chuck Colson of prison fellowship has pointed out the statistics which demonstrate that prejudice plays a large part in convictions and sentencing of criminals. In the business world there is often a good old boy mentality. In this fallen world, sadly, the statement seems to be true,"it's not who you are but whom you know that counts.” But this kind of stuff ought never to show up inside the doors of a church. Nevertheless it does and James addresses it with a powerful admonition. Notice he starts off in verses 1-4 by saying, My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here is a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?" As believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ we should never show favoritism. Actually it should probably be translated "As believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, the glory, don't show favoritism. James refers to Jesus as the "glory" because he wants to remind us at the beginning how awful this sin is. The word glory stands in apposition to Jesus Christ and it identifies him as the shekinah of the Old Testament, the pillar of fire, and as the one of whom John wrote in John 1 And we beheld his glory the glory as of the only begotten of the father, full of grace and truth. The point is that God says, I am the Lord and my glory i will not give to another. By the practice of favoritism these erring Christians were giving to men the glory that belonged only to God. It is a sin about which they thought little, but exceedingly grievous in God's sight.  We are going to look at the  awfulness of this sin and see how it contradicts reality, righteousness, and reason.

I A Contradiction of Reality. v.5-7

Listen my dear brothers says James in verses 5-7, Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong. He has already told us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. We are to listen first of all to God and consider the following.

A The Electing Love of God

Favoritism contradicts reality because God has chosen those who are poor to be spiritually rich. We don't interpret this to mean that the poor are automatically chosen by God as beneficiaries of His mercy. But neither can we afford to ignore the words of Jesus that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. That includes most of us. Ordinarily, Paul says in I Corinthians 1:27, God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things and the things that are not-to nullify the things that are, so that none may boast before him. They had similar problems of favoritism in Corinth. God jealousy guards his glory, and we are fighting against Him when we show favoritism. it ignores reality.

B The Exploitation of the Poor

Favoritism also contradicts reality because when we favor the rich over the poor, or the influential over the weak, we are really favoring those who as a class persecute the poor. Unbelievers in the position of power are no friend to Christianity. James Moffat the missionary once wrote that, the author of this letter knew cases like those which occur in modern India, where rich Hindus will bully and persecute on every conceivable pretext the poor pariahs who join the Christian Church. And they poor scorn on the name of Christ. Thus James first argues that showing favoritism is foolish because it contradicts reality, but it also contradicts righteousness.

II A Contradiction of Righteousness

The royal law is the summary of God's law to love God with all our heart mind and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. thus the very heart and soul of the ten commandments is at stake here as we see in verses 8-11, If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. To show favoritism is to sin in a way that attacks the very foundation of righteousness and is equivalent to murder because it is despising the image of God in men. But, there is more. Many people fail to see that the law of God is unitary. It is a composite reflection of the character of God himself. Those who view religion as keeping a set of rules, that is those who believe in salvation by works, which is most non-Christians, view the commandments as a series of laws which are separate from one another. This enables them to think in their own minds that because they have kept more of the commandments  than they have broken they will be saved. They do not know they are missing the point. Christians should know better. Because the law is the expression of God's holy character, any offense no matter how small we may think it is, will bring upon us the judgment of the whole law. In other words, apart from Christ a little sin brings death and hell, or a big sin brings death and hell. The reason is that God's holiness is offended by every sin and when you have offended the infinite God in any way each offense, no matter how small, receives his infinite wrath. The realization of this is intended to make us flee to Christ. The God man kept the law perfectly and bore all the wrath of God due to us upon the cross so that we might be forgiven. If you lived your whole life and committed only one little sin you would receive the same punishment as the greatest sinner, and only Christ can save you from that fate. This favoritism, about which James speaks, is obviously a very grave matter. It opposes God; it undermines His law; and it invites His judgment. We must repent of it.

`    III A Contradiction of Reason

In the concluding verses, 12 and 13, James reminds us that this is also a contradiction of reason, Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment! It is a contradiction of reason because it is the utmost folly to say you believe a gospel in which God shows mercy and is no respecter of persons, and then turn around and show favoritism. In fact it is sheer insanity. It is totally unreasonable. James refers to the law that gives freedom or the law of liberty. James refers to this in 1:25 as the perfect law of liberty. There is I believe a relationship between James words and what Paul teaches in Romans 7. The Apostle says there that he finds a law at work in the members of his body which is waging war against his renewed mind and is making him a prisoner of sin and death, but he also finds a law that in his inner being he delights in the law of God. This law in his inner being is the perfect law of liberty. It is a change of our disposition, in our mind and our heart so that we can say with David in Psalm 119, O how love I thy law. It is a battle, but we know as Christians that God's law brings freedom. It is the law of mercy of forgiveness, of sonship, of reconciliation and of renewed love of God's commandments. Now James says this is the law by which we shall be judged as believers. How dreadfully inconsistent then, how unreasonable for us who depend on mercy to fail to show mercy to others. Mercy triumphs over judgment in God's plan of salvation. Therefore mercy must triumph over judgment in our conduct. This is the only sane thing.