Step Towards Transformation
James 2:1-13 New King James Version (NKJV)
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?
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?
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.
So far, we have examined
Last time, our discussion centred on what does the life of one who professes to have been born again by the gospel look like? Doers of the Word and not just Hearers! James, and so we, comes to a problem area when it comes to being Doers of the Word and not just Hearers.
And that is The Sin of Partiality
Today we are going to look at favouritism. God does not care what family we come from, how much money we have or what we have accomplished. So if God is not a respecter of persons, why so often are the people who are called by His name? This morning we are in our 6th sermon on the book of James and James is looking at favouritism.
Illustration: I heard of a church that had invited a pastor to come to their church for the position of senior pastor. The Sunday arrived and the people were looking around to see if they could spot the new pastor. Many thought he was running late on his first Sunday, but still no pastor.
Meanwhile, a shabby, filthy, unshaven individual came in and sat down. People avoided him and there was a noticeable rejection of him. When it came time in the service for the pastor to come up the board secretary got up and said “we are happy to have the new pastor with us today. Would you please help me welcome him to the platform.” In the back the dirty individual got up walked to the front and preached, maybe on acceptance and favouritism, but whatever he preached on you could hear a pin drop. The story went on to say he did this to measure the spiritual health of the church.
Show no partiality as you hold faith in the glorious Lord Jesus Christ.
Acts 10:34-35 ..Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.
It took a while for this truth to sink into the hearts of those who were Christians; even the apostle Peter had to be told this truth through a vision and then a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit
As I read James, I had to ask myself, “Did James favour the poor over the rich?” The answer is no, but James has no problem addressing the sins of the rich, just as he addresses the sins of the poor who do show partiality toward the rich.
As Manifested in James’ Day: in its early days the Church was predominantly poor and humble; and therefore if a rich man was converted, and did come to the Christian fellowship, there must have been a very real temptation to treat him as a special trophy for Christ.”
As Manifested in Our Day
Right here in our text we see that it is not only a present problem but:
It Is also a Perplexing Problem – Notice that James calls Jesus Christ “the Lord of glory.” James is the half-brother of Jesus but he doesn’t make mention of this at all. Instead James calls Him “glorious.” James magnifies the glory of Jesus Christ. Can we compare the glory of Jesus to the passing glory of a rich man? We should not be too impressed with a human celebrity when we are brothers in Christ with the King of the universe! The Christian is to be the last person impressed by the passing outward glory of wealth or social status. Let’s get straight who we are. “Don’t show favouritism.” This is in the present tense which means we’re to “stop showing favouritism.”
Illustration; This illustration seems so obviously cold and mean spirited that we might be tempted to think that “this would never happen in our church!” But let me put it to you this way. Imagine that one of the town teenagers that play basketball entered our service today. He might have a t-shirt with both arms tattoed. He would be wearing his pants half-way down his backside, shoe-laces untied and shoes flopping. He’s sipping on a Red-Bull. On this same Sunday, a Christian celebrity also walked into our church. Perhaps someone like Johnny Lever ? Who do you think would receive a positive greeting, and who would get strange looks? If we are honest, our first thought when seeing the street teenager is “hey man, this is church – have some respect and pull up your pants.” Don’t get me wrong – I’m not advocating that we wear our pants half-way down our backside. I’m just suggesting that we are also prone to seeing people from a purely external perspective and ignoring the greater issues of the heart.
Why Christians Can’t Show Partiality?
James points out seven reasons why Christians can’t show partiality!
#1 = We Lose Grip of the Faith – Read James 2:1.
Illustration; I remember when film actor Salman Khan recently attended an event in Navi Mumbai In 2015 and as usual the crowd went crazy on seeing their beloved bhaijaan in person. It was as if an angel from heaven came to that church. Some Christian people SKIPPED the 3 day spiritual seminar they were attending in that area just to see Salman Khan in person.
In light of this text, we should wonder if he should have been treated with such favoritism. Scripture repeatedly attests that God never shows partiality! Read Deut 10:17 & Romans 2:11
#2 = We Taint Our Lord’s Glory – Read James 2:1.
Jesus in His birth, life and death exemplified NO partiality! – BIRTH = Consider the people in His genealogy (cf. Matt. 1) – Tamar (Canaanite women who posed as a prostitute to seduce Judah), Rahab (Gentile and a prostitute), Ruth (Moabite and idol worshiper). Consider to whom his birth was announed – 1st century shepherds.
– LIFE = Willing to minister in Galilee and Samaria, both regions held in contempt by 1st century Jews. E.g. woman at the well – John 4:4. Not only that but he hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors and risked ceremonial uncleanness by touching lepers and scorn by healing on the Sabbath.
– DEATH = Read Revelation 7:9-10.
As Christians, we profess to be Christ’s disciples, or followers, whose goal is to imitate Him. As such, our actions are likely to be considered by others as a reflection of what Christ teaches. If we show partiality as Christians, we leave the impression that Jesus Himself is partial. Therefore, if we are not careful, the glory of the Lord can be tainted by OUR partiality!
#3 = We Become Judges With Evil Thoughts – Read James 2:3-4. Jesus warned about: a) the dangers of judging (cf. Matthew 7:1), b) the need to make righteous judgment (cf. John 7:24). Not only have we claimed to ourselves the role of judges; worse, we have rendered our decision according to un-Christian, worldly and evil standards.”
Illustration; I like what Jesse Duplantis says about pride and prejudice. “We were all made of dirt… there’s white dirt, red dirt, yellow dirt, brown dirt, and black dirt…we all came from the same place…we’re dirt.” Too many times we judge someone’s character by their outward appearance while forgetting that we’re all smelly sinners.
Illustration; In a Life Magazine photo essay, people from all walks of life from the homeless to Fortune 500 executives were photographed. Every one of them was just wearing a towel wrapped around their bodies. Do you know what the conclusion was? They all looked the same!
Why is that? Because we are the same. You are not better than anyone else. Nor is anyone else better than you. You’re made from dirt and so am I. They are sinners and so are you. Your sins don’t smell any better than theirs. And since we’ve received mercy, it’s imperative that we become messengers of mercy to others. It’s time to destroy your prejudgments. In essence we’ve become like replacement officials, taking God’s judging job away from Him when we operate like this. Here’s a question. Are you ready to give God His judging job back?
#4 = We Despise Those God Has Honored – Read James 2:5-6a.The poor are the special objects of God’s concern. Now this does not mean that God shows favoritism toward the poor. It’s not that being poor in itself is any advantage with God. But there is a peculiar blessedness that pertains to truly poor believers, and that is their full dependence on God. They are in a position that requires them to be more dependent upon the daily provision of God.
Wasn’t the Lord Jesus Himself poor in earthly possessions? At His birth His parents borrowed a manger, and a place to stay; the poor shepherds were among the first to hear of His birth; He preached from a borrowed boat; He rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey; He ate His last supper with His disciples in a borrowed room; and He was buried in a borrowed grave! One reason He was rejected by the leaders of the nation was because His low social and economic standing. The poor have a special place in God’s economy of salvation!
The ground is same for EVERYBODY at the foot of the Cross…
The root of this Greek word for dishonor literally means without honor. 1 Peter 2:17 says to “Honor everyone.” When we despise the poor simply for being poor, we are failing to show them the honor God says is due everyone. Both then and today, God has chosen to honor ALL men
#5 = We Honor Those Most Capable & Likely Of Oppressing Us – Read James 2:6b-7. Beginning in the last of v.6, James says, “Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? “Oppress” is a customary present. The rich customarily oppress the poor, often in spite of any favoritism shown to them, for it means nothing to them. They are much more interested in money, than courting the favor of poor.
In that day, it was easy for rich persons to exploit the poor, influence decisions at court, and make themselves richer by confiscating their property. These rich people by in large were not Christians, and they often were enemies of Christ. They blasphemed His name. They were among those who persecuted Christians. Christians were anxious to avoid persecution at the hands of such powerful financial tyrants, but that was no excuse for showing favoritism in the house of God. We Christians should learn to do, not that which is expedient, but that which is right in the sight of God.
So James is saying, “Why treat rich people so special when they mistreat you, and most rich people have little or no interest in God. In fact, they often oppose the cause of Christ.”
James as he’s about to point out does not mean we should avoid honouring the rich (we should not give them preferential treatment) but that we should love everyone and treat EVERY individual as we would treat ourselves.
#6 = We Break “The Royal Law” – Read James 2:8-11.
In verse 8 we are called upon to fulfil the royal law of love. If indeed you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR (the one near you) AS YOURSELF,” you are doing well. It is also called royal or regal (basilikon for basileus, meaning king) because it is decreed by the one true King, the King of Kings (Jn. 13:34).
Jesus, Himself, declared such – Read Matthew 22:36-40. Paul, likewise, taught such – Read Romans 13:8-10. Put the two together, It is the summation of all God’s laws –“command to love” is “conduct of a high order that is worthy of a king.”
To fulfil the royal law is to carry it out, to put it into practice. Obedience to this law of love is the answer to prejudicial favouritism. Where Christians apply this royal law of love homes are remade, church are transformed, neighbourhoods become true communities.
Verse 9 calls those who practice favoritism sinners. James doesn’t mince any words! He calls a spade a spade. Discuss SIN not being a very popular word nowadays! Discriminating against people, whether on the basis of their dress, nationality, social class or race, is a clear violation of the unbounded love to which Jesus calls us. And since the command to love is at the very heart of the ‘royal law’, we become transgressors of that law when we show partiality.”
Illustration: [Raincoat Experiment] Clothing companies try to offer garments that match the public’s perception of what a successful person wears. To determine this, a clothing analyst performed an experiment with raincoats. An actor wearing a tan raincoat approached people at a subway station. He explained that he had left his wallet home and asked to borrow train fare. People were surprisingly generous with this supposedly unfortunate executive.
Then the actor wore a dark raincoat and approached people in the same way with the same story. This time he was treated differently. Not only would no one give him money, but he was physically threatened. The opposite reaction was linked to the color of the coat. People saw the dark garment as threatening and judged the man with suspicion.
Aren’t we also guilty of judging by appearances? Don’t we let externals determine how we respond to people? Though it seem unfair to so judge people we will unconsciously do so unless we are living in the power of Christ. Whenever we discriminate according to race, age, gender, or income level, we are sinning. God is impartial, and when we accept all people equally we are reflecting His character.
Verse 10 -11 reveals why those who practice partiality are lawbreakers. for whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.
Why do you think James included this point about keeping the whole law but failing in one point is to become accountable for all of it? Same reason as it’s applicable today!
Illustration: To break out one corner of a window pane is to become guilty of breaking the whole pane. He who crosses a forbidden boundary at one point or another is guilty of having crossed the boundary.”
We need not break all of God’s Laws to be guilty.
Illustration; To break one link in the chain is to break the chain. To break one Law or one part of the Law is to violate the entire Law.
Violating a single command of God makes a person a lawbreaker. Obedience at several points while neglecting another point still means we have disobeyed God. No matter how well we think we do in one area it will not compensate for acts of disobedience in another area. We may think our prejudgment [favouritism] a little thing, but God still calls it sin.
#7 = We Will One Day Be Judged By “The Law of Liberty” -Read James 2:12-13
In Verse 12 James also appears to refer to the Royal Law as “the Law of Liberty”. In other words, the Royal Law is the same law that gives liberty to those who belong to Christ Jesus the Lord. It is vital that I emphasise the stunning truth that freedom is found in Christ, and holding to the teaching about Him continues to give liberty.
You may recall that James has once before referred to “the Law of Liberty,” which he called “the Perfect Law” [JAMES 1:25]. It will perhaps be beneficial to refresh our memory by reading that verse together. “The one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” [JAMES 1:25]. When we studied this verse in a previous message, we saw that James was likely referring to the Word of God itself as the perfect law, as the Law of Liberty.
Notice how James drives home how we are to apply this message in v.12, “So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.” The apostle James tells us that we as Christians should watch what you say, and how you act toward others, whether rich or poor, white or black. Don’t show favoritism, and don’t discriminate.
In Verse 13, James Ends With A Warning About Judgement: As free as we are under the law of Christ, the law of liberty, we need to remember that God will judge us! Read Romans 14:10-13, 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, 2 Corinthians 5:10.
Though justification is by faith alone, what Christians do will affect God’s evaluation of their service to Him and the rewards they will receive. Read Rev 22:12 And Heb 9:27
In Verse 13, James Ends With A Warning Of Mercy : Show mercy, expect to receive mercy at the judgment; act unmercifully, expect the same when God deals with you at the judgment! Spiritual principle = reap what you sow. Finally, Mercy triumphs over judgment!
Choose to be merciful. This passage ends with a message of hope. Let’s pick up the last part of Verse 13: “…Mercy triumphs over judgment!” Mercy is that aspect of God’s character that causes Him to help the miserable. But mercy is not simply an attribute or an attitude because God always moves with action to alleviate the situation. Jesus said it like this in Matthew 5:7: “Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.”
We’re called to be merciful because we’ve received mercy. I came across a quote this week: “Never look down on anybody unless you are helping them up!”
Illustration; There was a deplorable incident occurred in the life of Mahatma Gandhi. He said in his autobiography that during his student days he was interested in the Bible. Deeply touched by reading the gospels, he seriously considered becoming a convert. Christianity seemed to offer the real solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India.
One Sunday he went to a church to see the minister and ask for instruction on the way of salvation and other Christian doctrines. But when he entered the sanctuary, the ushers refused him a seat and suggested that he go and worship with his own people. He left and never went back. “If Christians have caste differences also,” he said to himself, “I might as well remain a Hindu.” – H.G.B. Our Daily Bread, January 19. That usher’s pride, prejudice, and partiality not only betrayed Jesus, but also turned a person away from trusting Him as Savior
Conclusion: We are called to be set apart from this world and this goes for how we accept people into the church. We are called to be merciful because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
We sometimes don’t think our sin will hurt anyone, but ourselves, but that is not the case. We see that our rejection of someone that is not socially affluent or has does not have it all together financially or may be from a different back ground as us may mean that Jesus may never be introduced to them. Let us not fall into the sin of favouritism.
Illustration; Let me close with this story: There was a young hippie who gave his life to Christ during the Jesus Movement of the late sixties and early seventies. One Sunday he went to a church, not knowing what to expect and walked into an average middle class church in his hometown.
He was late to the service, and the pastor was about to begin the message. As he walked in, he saw that the place was packed and he could not find a place to sit. So, not knowing any better, he sat down on the floor in front of the platform where the pastor was standing.
Well, you can guess what kind of reaction he caused, although people were quiet about it. Everyone was wondering how the pastor was going to handle the situation, and how they were going to get rid of this unmannered young man. After what seemed like an eternity, an elderly usher headed down the aisle toward the young man. The people thought: “finally, we’ll get some action. He’ll tell this guy what’s what, and we’ll be done with him.” Everyone held their breath as they waited to hear how the usher would tell the hippie to leave.
The old man bent over as if to talk to the young man, then bent his knees, and sat down cross-legged next to the young man. He stayed there with the young hippie and worshiped with him for the rest of the service. He saw past the social barrier and saw the heart of the matter.
If we truly want to have the same mind as that of Jesus we need to look at the heart, the internal features, not the external. Who’s light are you shining when it comes to partiality? Yours or your Christ’s?