Perils of Partiality
James 2:1-13 (Pastor Brian)
1 My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 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? 6 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? 7 Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong? 8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,”you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 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. 12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!
In James, remember where we’ve been.
James is writing to Christians, scattered abroad, discussing how important it is to practice what we preach “Walk the walk, and talk the talk.” Be DOERS of the Word, not just readers.
- Keep a bridle on your tongue.
- Show love to those in need.
- Keep yourself unstained by the world.
Things that are outright temptations in the world are obviously to be avoided, BUT ALSO, the attitudes and philosophies of the world show be avoided. (Romans 12:2 also “Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” – This is a process. Take in the Word, walk in the light of it, see the value of it.)
- Here, James shows how conformity to the world’s standards can compromise God’s standards.
- Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mould (mold).
- Don’t show favoritism (partiality) – the state of being biased against or for one certain group or person over another group or person.
We are all likely guilty of this in some degree.
The Jews exonerated Jesus of being this (but this was hypocritical of them). Luke 20? The leaders came to Jesus and used his impartiality as their weapon. “Teacher, we know you teach correctly, and you don’t show favoritism to any, but teach the Word of God in truth…” But they tried to use this as a weapon “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?”
(If YES, the Jews wouldn’t find it very pleasing – he’d become unpopular. If NO, the Romans would see him as a rebel – he’d get in trouble. But you can’t outwit Jesus. “Who’s face is on this coin? Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s.”)
They recognized that Jesus didn’t show partiality – even though they were enemies.
Partiality = undue favoritism
When he says “favoritism” he’s using a term in the Greek that means “lift up the countenance of somebody” (show a favor, encourage, lift up, etc). Think of Cain after he murdered Able – his countenance had fallen. And God saw that and said, “Why has it fallen?”
When your countenance is up, you are receiving favor, encouragement, etc. Originally, this was a pleasant term, but eventually, it became negative – when there is overt (too much) favoritism it’s no good.
For example, when the church was expanding, the Greek ajummas were not receiving the proper portion of the food and they had to resolve this issue so that there was no favoritism of Israel’s ajummas over the Greek ajummas.
Personal favoritism = lifting up or putting down someone else (you lift up one, you put down someone else)
Think of celebrities and the successful in their career/profession. We show tremendous respect to them, and to the “nobodies” we don’t care. God doesn’t do that – he looks at the heart.
Philip Yancy has interviewed many celebrities and has found that many have shallow hearts and depend wholly on the praise of others, not God.
The Lord looks at the heart.
Abe Lincoln “God must love the common man because he made so many of them.”
Even men of God – 1 Samuel 16 (after the failure of Saul – God was to choose a new king) verse 1 “So the Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you mourn for Saul? Fill you horn with oil and head to Jesse – I’ve chosen one of his sons to be king.’ Samuel ‘Saul will kill me.’ God ‘Take a lamb and say you’re going to sacrifice and invite Jesse. I will show you then.’ So Samuel went and the elders in the town shook in fear of him worrying he didn’t come in peace. When the sons of Jesse came, he saw the tallest, biggest, best and thought, ‘I bet this guy is who the Lord wants.’ But God said, ‘Nah, nah, nah – don’t look at his physique, I look at the heart.’ None of the young (7) sons that Jesse brought to Samuel were the ones that God had chosen. The youngest (David) was just a boy and was tending the sheep. So he was brought in – he was ruddy and handsome and the Lord said, ‘Bingo! He’s the guy!’ Samuel rose and anointed him with oil, then went on to Rama.”
Samuel even thought differently, but was sensitive enough to the Spirit of God that he knew there was another son and asked for him particularly.
There is a tendency (even among the prophets) to look at the outward appearance. Even Jesus said, “Do not judge by the outward appearance.” Romans 2:11 “There is no partiality with God.” Proverbs “To show partiality is not good.”
But we all have a tendency (from childhood) to show favoritism.
Still, James warns against this. So, he provides a common, practical example. Even in churches throughout the ages this is a big problem. The BIG givers usually get the best spots, the most preferential treatment, and the poor are told “Sit in the back.” Still, the Lord spoke strongly against this (Leviticus “Do not be partial to the poor…judge your neighbor fairly.” – we may even sometimes treat the poor better to the neglect of the rich. Don’t do this either.)
Use righteous judgment in whatever you do.
One pastor had been preaching on this and meditating for about a week. On Friday, a homeless man came in, he was almost getting sent to jail – he’d gone to every agency in town and didn’t get any help. He passed the office door and came in. We got him a Grey Hound (bus) ticket to Denver. He came back and said that his shoes were too small to walk – he asked for a ride. I obliged, nervously, but he was a good conversationalist and spoke of Jesus. He said, “Thank you, Father.” The preacher said, “Although I’d been meditating on this all week, it hadn’t yet touched my actions. I hope that I’ve learned this lesson.”
In Canada, people often passed through, and people ask for money, a ride, etc. After a time, your heart can become hard. But the Lord says, “Repent of those attitudes. You have the means to help, so help.”
In Acts, the Jews had no dealings with the Gentiles, and yet God called Cornelius to know about Jesus and receive salvation through him. He was a centurion and tithed in the synagogue and prayed daily. An angel told him to go to Joppa and find Simon Peter and bring him to them – to their household – to tell them words by which they’d be saved. So he did it.
At the same time, the Lord was preparing Peter’s heart. The Lord gave him a (hungry) vision on the top of the roof of his building. A sheet came down from heaven with “unclean” animals and the Lord said, “Rise and kill and eat.” Peter said, “No, surely not.” God said, “Do not call unclean that which I’ve cleansed.” At that time the messengers from Cornelius arrived and called on Peter. The Lord said, “Go with them.” So he did, and he witnessed to them.
As he was speaking and explaining the ministry and life and salvation of Jesus, the Holy Spirit fell upon the Gentiles – and then Simon and the other Jews (witnesses) were able to testify to this to the greater Jewish church.
Then, Peter realized that God is not partial and that even Gentiles whose hearts are turned toward him can be saved.
Yet, even later, Peter still showed partiality to the Jews – separated himself from the Gentiles. Paul corrected him. “Old habits die hard.” You know that and I know that. We have to crucify the flesh daily. Peter subjected himself to Paul’s correction. We also must do that.
Remind ourselves: “That wasn’t right of me to judge him/her in that way. Just because he smelled, had bad hair, etc.”
Sex trafficking – in India – girls as young as 10 or 12 have no hope except through Christ. They are often enslaved by the government of the pimps. The pimps usually give loans with ENORMOUS interest which can NEVER be paid back.
Often these women may be saved and go right back into the prostitution. There’s not an immediate actual break from this kind of trauma. There takes time for the layers of brokenness to be healed.
“Over the mountains and the sea, your river runs with love for me, and I will open up my heart and let the Healer set me free.” But the healing takes time.
We should open our hearts to our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world – don’t show partiality to any. Where there’s a need, try to meet it.
Ceneka – Greek philosopher – said, “They love to put rings on their fingers.” Just to show off how wealthy they were (even if they weren’t) – they just wanted to give the IMPRESSION that they were wealthy (how many of us do that today?)
These people were often given special treatment in the church.
Another person comes in who hasn’t showered in a few days and is told, “sit in the back… or at least not too close to the rich because their noses are sensitive…”
Yet, it’s the RICH who drag you to court and sue. The RICH oppress you. The RICH blaspheme the name of the Lord.
In Antioch they were called “Christians” first (in mockery) – but they took that name and ran with it – making it a badge of honor.
James concludes and says, “Show mercy TO EVERYONE.” No one can CHOOSE who is worthy or not worthy of salvation. Then you are becoming judges with evil thoughts.
Remember: Mercy TRIUMPHS over judgment.
The picture of the Roman general with all his treasures from the war would come out and honor the general – he’d come back with MORE than he’d gone out with. This is TRIUMPH. This is a good picture of what Mercy over Judgment means.
Even as Christians, we will face the Judgment at the Bema Seat – “what have you done with the life you’ve been given?” – this is not to enslave us with fear, and this is not the judgment of condemnation. But when we are merciful, we also will receive mercy.
“Love covers over a multitude of sins.”
May the Lord bless the Word to our hearts and enable us to put it into practice this week.