Good morning everyone, we are continuing in our study of the book of James today. Last week we finished chapter one and how we are called to be doers of the word, not just hearers. To go along with that topic, James begins to tell us what we should be doing (or not doing) as a result of being a follower of Jesus.
Engage / Tension
Engage / Tension
So right off the bat, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Something doesn’t appear to be right this morning. It would seem that I went and had an awakening (to some people) or to others I’ve fallen into deep sin. I wanted to wear this Cardinals shirt today because in chapter two James is going to hit on the topic of favoritism. One way that we might be tempted to demonstrate favoritism is based upon how someone looks or dresses. Inwardly we would like to think that we aren’t judging people based on what they wear, but in reality we all probably do it. We make assumptions about people based on what they wear, what they look like, and the relationships or lack thereof that we develop with them have something to do with how we perceive them.
We live in a world that is all about image. That is literally some people’s jobs, to influence others online about what to wear and how to dress. Essentially what you should try to look like. And when we dress a certain way or have certain things we end up showing favoritism to people who are like us. It might be you show favoritism to someone based on the baseball team they like (although that is a sillier example). But in reality you are probably more prone to show favoritism to people who act / look like you or who are in a position that you think could be helpful to you. James addresses favoritism in chapter two, specifically with the illustration of a rich man and a poor man.
1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 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. 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 and sisters: 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 dishonored 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 blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
James begins with the command, “Believers in Jesus must not show favoritism.” He then dives right into an illustration using the early church. Imagine they are gathering together for worship and two men walk in, one dressed in all the nicest things, and the other in filthy rags. Right here, I want us to pause. Picture that happening today, this morning, in this place. We have two visitors walk in, one looks like he works for some fancy company, the other looks like he hasn’t showered in a week. Before you respond with how you “hope” you would react, think honestly about yourself. Who are you approaching in that scenario? Who gets your attention? Who do you actually try to have a conversation with? James is pointing out to us, that if we show favoritism to the well dressed person, we are discriminating based upon our evil thoughts.
(Spurgeon illustration, had to have offering envelope to have a seat)
We don’t want to admit it, but we are prone to show favoritism to people who we think might benefit us. Imagine if that well dressed person kept coming. Would he put more in the offering plate? Does he have a family that would come with him? And the question we might think about the person who is dressed in rags is, “That person isn’t going to come back, are they?”
As you look at the kind of people Jesus interacted with during his ministry, you can see that Jesus did not prefer those who were well kept and had things figured out in life. Jesus stayed with those that others couldn’t even stand to look at, he touched people that the world rejected. Favoritism is serious and should be taken seriously. It doesn’t just depend upon what a person is wearing, it can be based on how they look, their ethnicity. If we demonstrate favoritism towards people because they simply look like us, we are sinning. We can’t look at people the way that the world looks at them, we need to look at them as God sees them. Made in his image and likeness just like us.
I came across a letter that could have been written, if Jesus chose those first disciples, the way we do it today. Today, we like to have personality tests given and profiles taken to determine the potential of possible employees and leaders. This fictional letter is a response to the profiles that Jesus could have administered to the 12 potential disciples.
Jesus, Son of Joseph
Woodcrafter Carpenter Shop
Thank you for submitting the resumes of the 12 men you have picked for managerial positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken the battery of tests and we have run them through our computers. It is the staffs’ opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, educational and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. We would suggest that you continue your search for persons with experience and proven capability. Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has no leadership skills at all. The 2 brothers, James and John, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel that it is our duty to inform you that Matthew has been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau. James the son of Alphaeus and Thaddaeus have radical leanings and registered high manic-depressive scores.
Only one of the candidates shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness who meets people well and has a keen business mind. He has contacts in high places and is highly motivated, ambitious and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-hand man.
We wish you every success in your new venture.
Jordan Management Consultants
I really do like that fake letter because it illustrates to me that Jesus really wouldn’t pick the disciples in the same way that we would. Jesus didn’t show favoritism to teachers of the law, to rabbis with large followings, instead he loved everyone and even picked those who we would not think qualified to be his disciples.
(Jesus does not show favoritism towards us, we didn’t do anything to earn the grace that he gives us, so how can we show favoritism to others?)
We’ve been told to stop showing favoritism, so what are we supposed to do to help us not do that? James provides the answer for us.
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, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall 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.
James tells us to keep the royal law found in scripture. “love your neighbor as yourself.” This command is given in Leviticus 19:18, and is the same law that Jesus references when summing up the greatest commands.
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” 29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
While this might seem like a simplistic answer, it is true, if you want to stop sinning by showing favoritism, you need to demonstrate love for people. This means showing love not just to people who are easy to show love towards. It’s difficult at time to demonstrate love towards others. Yet it appears to Jesus that loving all your neighbors as yourself is important.
James also points out the severity of the sin of favoritism. Favoritism is just like any other sin. If you show favoritism, according to the law you are a lawbreaker. So speak with love and act with love.
Now you might be thinking, “How can I speak and act well enough to be OK before God? I could never do that.” And this is where you recognize that you could never do enough to stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and so you subsequently realize that you need Christ’s mercy. That leads to our last reminder from James on this point.
As we have received mercy, so we extend mercy. Just as Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive your as well. But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing” (Matt 6:14–15). When you are forgiven of your sins, you are compelled to forgive others. As you have received mercy, you extend mercy. But the converse of this truth is particularly humbling and penetrating: if we do not extend mercy, we demonstrate that we have not received mercy. James says that judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful (2:13). This is not saying we need to be merciful to others in order to earn mercy before God. You can’t earn mercy; it’s mercy because it can’t be earned. No, this text is saying you can tell who has received mercy from God by the way they show mercy to others. If mercy is evident in someone’s life, then clearly Christ by His mercy is dwelling in them. But if mercy is not evident in them, then there may be reason to wonder whether Christ by His mercy is dwelling in them.
Who is that person that might be the recipient of love and mercy from me this week, instead of discrimination?