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James 2:1-4 - Favoritism



"My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show

favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 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,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?"

 

It is not enough to know the Word, as knowledge alone is not what God requires of us. If all we do is read and listen to the Word, and stop there, we are deceiving ourselves. There is more to it …. the mark of true religion, or true faith, is putting into action that which we believe. We must not be hearers of the Word only; we must also do what it says.

 

This is the overarching message of James, and the remainder of his letter will unpack this idea of how, if we have genuine faith, it should be evident in our actions. Our inner faith is displayed by works of faith being acted upon in our daily lives.

 

Beginning in Chapter 2, James becomes more specific and direct in his instructions as he addresses a number of issues dealing with living out the Word as evidence of genuine faith. While many of these are specific issues with which James’s initial readers seem to be struggling, they remain relevant because we deal with the very same issues today.

 

In the first verses of Chapter 2, James condemns the attitude of favoritism or partiality. Favoritism is displaying undue respect or disrespect for certain persons. We can have a higher opinion than we should about someone, or we could have a lower opinion than we should about someone. Both are considered favoritism, and both are wrong.

 

Either way, we will learn that favoritism is a sin. It can hinder us from receiving the Word properly, hinder us from living the righteous lifestyle God desires, and hinder us from spiritual maturity. Favoritism is not evidence of genuine faith, James instructs us.


In fact, favoritism is a common way that we and the church (then and now) can slide into worldliness. It is common for the world to honor the rich and neglect the poor, and James is saying that the church, if it is not careful, will do the same thing.

 

In verses 2-4, James begins with an illustration of how the church was showing favoritism. He paints a picture of two very different men who walk into a gathering, most likely an assembly of church members. The first man is obviously wealthy, while the second is clearly poor. The issue in this illustration is how each man is treated.

 

The rich man was given special attention over the poor man based on the opinions of the people at this particular meeting. The rich man was given a better place to sit, or the poor man was given a worse place to sit. However, James tells us that if we make distinctions or show favoritism or show special attention, it is discrimination … and by the way, this works both ways … even if we show favoritism to the poor over the rich … we are discriminating or showing prejudice.


We have become “judges,” James says, “with evil thoughts.” We put ourselves above others and judge them as if they are less than us. This goes against God’s command to love one another. It is sin…. evil … and is not evidence of genuine faith.

 

In a culture fixated on social status and outward appearances, it is often easy for Christians to show favoritism within the church and outside the church in our own personal lives. However, as believers, as we have been shown grace by the Lord Himself, we should be willing to show grace to those around us, regardless of status, whether it be financial, social, or professional.

 

Speaking honestly, this can be a challenge sometimes, especially when people act hateful and divisive. However, we are commanded to love God and love others…no matter what they look like, what they believe, or how they behave. Giving special attention (good or bad) to people based on our opinions is wrong. We should judge people based on God’s standards/values—He created everyone and loves everyone. So should we.


It’s always good to look at examples of similar teachings in the bible. I’ve included more Scripture references at the end of this blog. Know that God’s Word leaves no doubt. God did not show favoritism or partiality, and His Word clearly commands us to follow His example.


The evidence of true faith, James will continue to remind us, portrays itself in showing love, kindness, mercy, grace, courtesy, care, and compassion, to all, whatever their status, class … or sin … may be. We are not to be judges of others…period!


Further Scripture readings on favoritism:

o   Leviticus 19:15.

o   Deuteronomy 1:17

o   Deuteronomy 10:17

o   Proverbs 24:23

o   Provers 28:21

o   Matthew 22:16

o   Acts 10:34–35

o   Galatians 2:6

o   Romans 2:11

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