Real Faith for Real Life Faith Service Worship Vision
There may be times when you find it difficult to reconcile God’s truth to your own opinion or worldview, God’s truth is eternal, it does not change, our understanding of the truth does change as we allow God to work in our hearts and minds. These sessions are not about opinion, they are about learning truth, the truth contained in the Bible, together we are going to focus on how we apply God’s truth, black & white in a grey world. To set godly priorities, grow in Christian character and live according to God’s standards so that we are a living witness to others. Notes from previous sessions are available from the Bible Study Section of www.ashingdonelim.co.uk.
10 May 2011
Don’t Play Favourites James 2:1-13 What is your favourite? People have a lot of favourites. We have favourite foods, and activities and tv shows and movies. We even have favourite people. In the world, people are often treated differently based on external factors, who you know, how rich you are, what you are wearing, what you look like. This is something that is hurtful to individual people, when a decision about how a person is being treated is being made on such superficial grounds. And while this does go on in the world, it doesn’t make it right and it is something that should never go on in the church. In this study we are continuing our series Real Faith for Real Life as we work through the book of James and we are going to see that: n
a real faith treats others as we would like to be treated and
a real faith lives in light of the incredible mercy we have been shown.
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism. 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? 1
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 dishonoured 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? 5
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbour as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favouritism, 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. 8
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 2:1-13 12
James begins by addressing a problem that is going on in the early church that people are selecting favourites in regards to who is coming into the church. It is important to understand what James means when he talks about favouritism.
What does it mean to play favourites? We need to read Scripture in light of other Scripture because sometimes, we misunderstand what is being said.
Is James saying that we are to treat everyone identically?
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? (James 2:2-4) 2
Should we ever out of respect, show favour to one person over another? For example in 1 Timothy, Paul told Timothy to only put widows on the list of who would be helped out by the church if they were over 60 years old (1 Timothy 5:9) and only if she had been faithful to her husband.
James is clear when he says we should not favour one person over another based on a judgment arrived at due to external appearances.
Paul was saying that people should be treated differently out of respect.
Rolls Royce vs Rust Bucket
In the 21st Century is it still acceptable, for a man to give up a seat for a woman?
If on Sunday morning, I said to myself, “oh look, this person pulled up in a Rolls Royce and another new person pulled up in rust bucket” and I said, to myself, “I will spend more time with this rich person and not with the poor person” because they aren’t as valuable to me or the church, I would be judging this persons value based on some external appearance or factor.
It is not an issue of favouritism as James would describe, it is an issue of respect.
What about people in government, should we respect the position even if we don’t necessarily respect the person?
James would say that I have discriminated and become a judge with evil thoughts. Now, while this happens out in the business world all the time, it shouldn’t. And James says that it certainly should not happen in the church.
In Acts 23, Paul rebukes the high priest (though he did not know it at the time). But when he found out, he said, “I did not realise that he was the high priest; for it is written: ’Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.’ (Acts 23:5)
Unfortunately, this type of favouritism can happen in churches sometimes. Sometimes, it seems so acceptable to people that they don’t even know it.
He understood the office demanded respect, even if the person did not. So the same would be true about the office of the Prime Minister. We need to show respect for the office even if we don’t respect the person. So James is not talking about not showing respect for certain people above others, when he says don’t play favourites.
Do you often make judgments about people based on external factors or treat people differently based on those judgments? God tells us through James that we play favourites when we judge based on externals and it is due to the evil within us. He says we “become judges with evil thoughts” (v. 4b)
Do we make distinctions? Can you think of a time when your actions toward someone based on a circumstance or need?
Don’t Disregard God’s Word
For example, if we give someone money because of a need, it does not mean that we have to give everyone money, regardless if they need it or not. We make a distinction between people.
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? (James 2:5)
Sometimes on Sunday mornings we make distinctions.
James here is alluding to Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, specifically the beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
When James is talking about not playing favourites, he is not saying that we should never make distinctions between people and that if we spend 5 minutes with one person, we need to spend 5 minutes with each person.
When we make judgments about people based on their material wealth, are we disregarding the teaching of the Lord?
Do you spend more time with people who are here regularly, or with people who may be visiting for the first time or who are new?
Generally speaking, those who are wealthy often feel self sufficient. This is not an indictment of everyone with money, but it is generally true and it is a temptation to everyone who has money, to be self reliant. It is something that needs to be guarded against.
When was the last time you judged someone or something based on appearance? The word translated “favouritism” in verse 1, or “Partiality” in some Bibles, comes from a term meaning to accept or judge according to face. It is making a judgment toward someone, good or bad, based upon some outward appearance or look.
Looking at the world today, why is it that the poor are often those with hte greatest faith? It is because they don’t have other things to rely on?
The world view is that some sins are really not so bad while others are. James says not so fast. Sin is sin.
God is their only source and their strength. When we honour the rich over the poor based solely on their wealth or there external appearance, we disregard the teaching of the Word.
While it is true that some sins have different earthly consequences compared to other sins, when we have sinned, no matter how big or small we think it is, it is the same as breaking the whole law in God’s eyes. When we disobey Him we separate ourselves from Him.
Don’t Dishonour God How do we dishonour God if we disregard His word? Can you give an example of when it is possible to dishonour God by honouring those who dishonour Him?
Don’t think that if you are playing favourites with people, judging them by their external appearance, and that is affecting how you treat them, that you are not really as bad as other people.
But you have dishonoured 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 2:6-7) 6
We are in our natural state sinners, and it is because of our sin, that Christ needed to go to the Cross and make atonement so that we could receive mercy, grace and forgiveness. James goes on to remind us that we need to live in light of this grace, mercy and forgiveness we have received.
In this example, the rich, whom the Christians were playing favourites with, were not only dragging them into court, but they were slandering the name of Christ.
If we are not supposed to judge people based upon external appearances, is it ok to make judgments not based on external appearances?
When we base who we are favouring or we are making judgments in favour of someone based solely on their wealth or external appearance, without consideration of their lifestyle and their view of the Lord, we dishonour God.
Casting Judgment or Extending Mercy? 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 2:12-13) 12
Time for an Objection? You might say, “yes, they are slandering the Lord, but that just shows that they need Him, so we need to spend time with them and favour them so we can share the Lord with them, just like we needed.” James addresses this thought in the next verse: 8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbour as yourself,” you are doing right. (James 2:8)
Is it acceptable for “the Church” to judge someone? Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:12-13, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”
If this is your true motive and you are not playing favourites based on evil thoughts or selfishness, then you do right. But we really need to check our motives and our heart in circumstances like this because we can deceive ourselves.
God will judge those outside the church, but when Christians conduct themselves in ways that are damaging to Christ by some open and public sin from which they refuse to repent, the church is supposed to judge that and remove them from the church.
The Lord tells us through Jeremiah that “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
Don’t judge based on appearance Jesus says in Matthew 7:1-2, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Back to Reality! After James tells them that if that is really their motive, that is good, but them brings them back to reality if they are really showing favouritism.
We don’t need to be casting judgment on people. We can trust the Lord to do. Instead, we need to be extending mercy, just as the Lord did to us, even when we didn’t deserve it, While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
But if you show favouritism, 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. (James 2:9-11). 9
Keep in mind that as a believer in Jesus Christ, judgment for your sin has already been paid for by Jesus Christ, and now we are not facing the judgment that we so rightly deserve, but we are receiving God’s mercy and grace.
James is addressing some people who were thinking, “well even if I do show favouritism, it’s not like I killed someone or really sinned.”
In light of that mercy and grace we have received, how should we extend mercy to others? 3
God tells us through Paul in Romans 15:7, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Again, listen to James, 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 2:12-13)
Application To truly be able to extend mercy to others, you need to experience the mercy and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in your own life. We only do that, when we receive His mercy and grace, and we do that when we receive Jesus Christ as Saviour. To do that we need to recognize our need. We need a Saviour because we need to be saved from our sins. Each one of us has are sinned. No matter what we have done, as James said, it is like breaking the whole law. We need to know our need and we need to know that Jesus is the Saviour, that He is the God who came here and put on flesh and died to pay the price for your sins. But death could not hold him. He rose from the dead and defeated death and sin and offers us: n
Freedom from a bondage to sin.
Freedom from living in sin.
Freedom to live for Him.
You don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve it. None of us deserve it, but we receive the gift of eternal life by His grace.