James 2 – Playing Favorites
[TV shows from "lifestyles of the rich and famous" to "MTV's Cribs" have shown us all that the rich and famous live a different life than most of us. I read this week, the story of Patricia Kluge who was married to John Kluge once the richest man in America. Patricia was a British model and actress and the 3rd wife of John Kluge whose net worth was over 5 billion. The couple divorced in 1990, and Patricia's settlement was worth 1 billion; this week she filed for bankruptcy listing 10 million in assets, and 50 million in debts. Her former husband John died last year, still worth billions, but like all men he took nothing with him when he died.
So if this is the fate of the rich and famous, why do "normal" folks feel compelled to treat them different? This is the question for James 2.]
Beware of Personal Favoritism
1 My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. 2 For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, 3 and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool," 4 have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
[Would you show partiality with the gospel? Would you welcome into our church a local hero like Dirk Nowitzki, the same way you would welcome someone who looked homeless? Regardless of where you live, or who you socialize with, God forbids partiality with regard to the faith. Every time I'm in Newport Beach for work, I laugh at gated communities. I mean if you live in Newport Beach where the average home cost 1 million dollars, who are you trying to keep out?
We also live in a rich neighborhood. I don't mean Burleson, or Benbrook, I mean the kingdom of God. The inheritance we have in Christ Jesus was fully bought and paid for by him. We did nothing to earn it, but we all share in its blessings. And God says we don't own the faith, but we do hold it as trustees, or ambassadors. And since we hold this sacred trust of the gospel of grace, for His purpose, and not our own; we must hold it without partiality.
Around Easter time I came to church on Wednesday night for choir, and I talked to Jimmy Walker. Jimmy works for a print shop that does a lot of mass mailings for churches and businesses. And he was fired up that a local church paid for an Easter mailing that targeted only high income households in expensive neighborhoods. Then demanded a discount when they discovered their mailing also went to an apartment complex. Apparently they were trying to increase the tithes to the church by targeting high income households, but they didn't want renters in their church, no matter how high the income.]
5 Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? 7 Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?
[God not only appeals to His sovereignty in saying it's my church, my faith, and my gospel; but he also appeals to logic. Who responds more to the gospel the rich or the poor? When Jesus was born was the good news not announced to poor shepherds?
In Matthew 11When John the Baptist sent his disciples to Jesus asking, "are you the one?" He responds by telling them go tell John what you have seen; the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. These were the signs-of-the-kingdom that Isaiah has prophesied in chapters 35 and 61 to tell of the coming messiah.
In Matthew 19 when Jesus met the Rich young Ruler who wanted to be saved, but trusted only in his wealth, he told his disciples it was easier for Him to push a camel through the eye of a needle, than to push rich people into heaven. You see the rich always have to battle the temptation of their own possessions, and no man can serve two masters. So I don't think there are a lot of rich people in heaven, as most find it hard to trust in God, and easy to trust in their wealth.]
8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well; 9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder."Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
[I think these last 6 verses were for the legalist in the crowd. The ones who were thinking "I can do everything else right? I can love God, and give money, and worship, and even be nice to everyone, but still keep my preferences and just talk and share Jesus with to the people I like, and that will be ok with God." But that is not what the scripture says. The same God who said no to murder and adultery, also said no to partiality. Once when Jesus said Love your neighbor a lawyer asked "who is my neighbor?", and that prompted the parable of the Good Samaritan. And in case you forget the conclusion of that story the answer to "who" was the one who showed compassion. (Luke 10)
The scripture here tells us that the one, who shows partiality instead of love or compassion to his neighbor, is guilty. Has offended the God who gave the whole law, and is thus guilty of the whole law. But this isn't the law of the flesh, this law is only for the redeemed. Verse 12 reminds us this is the law of liberty, the law you can only keep because you have been regenerated, born again. And just as God extended mercy to us while we were still sinners, so we extend mercy, and share the gospel with everyone showing no partiality, and thus fulfill the law of liberty.
Back in James 1:9-10 the scripture says "Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation" because both of those mean that they met God. When the poor are lifted up, and the rich are humbled, that means they discovered what they really needed most in the world, was not even in the world, but in heaven.
And so to the rich and to the poor, we teach and preach Jesus, without partiality; because that's the way God wanted it. After all who are we without Jesus?