PLAYING FAVORITES & NECROTAINMENT
There is a new word that I made up this week: Necrotainment. It is popular entertainment and news that is focused on celebrity deaths. For example, we can’t get enough news about several famous people who have died this past month:
• King of Pop – Michael Jackson
• Angel & Vixen – Farrah Fawcett
• The Jester of Infomercials – Billy Mays
• Kung Fu Master – David Carradine
• Impressionist Fred Travalena
• TV personality Ed McMahon
• Actress Gale Storm
• Actor Dom DeLuise
• Quarterback Steve McNair
Our culture is obsessed with these dead celebrities. This Necrotainment is showing what our culture is really about. Our Culture’s #1 objective = to promote wealth & fame.
But that is not what we are after, is it? Our dream is “MIDDLE CLASS RETIREMENT”! We live for it!
We want health, family, and the ability to just do whatever we want. The #1 objective = comfort
But is this what God wants? Through out the history of the Church, there has been a remarkable example set before us. There have been men and women who have given their lives for one thing. Martyrs of the faith have died with one objective = to make God’s mercy known to the world!
They have taken seriously when Jesus said: Luke 6:36 (NCV) - Show mercy, just as your Father shows mercy.
These martyrs want the world to know about Jesus, the one who provided mercy to us. They want the world to experience His grace and to embrace Jesus Christ as the giver of mercy. They were willing to die so that others might no our Lord of Glory.
Today we continue in our study of the Book of James and He calls Jesus this same name: “the Lord of Glory” – READ James 2:1
Like a martyr of the faith, James’ desire, his #1 goal in life is to make known this “Lord of Glory”.
Psalm 24:8 (NIV) - Who is this Lord of glory? He is the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.
So when James uses this phrase, “Lord of Glory”, he is basically calling his half-brother, Jesus, THE divine! He is saying, here is God in the flesh and this is the best newsflash ever!
Since Jesus ascended to heaven, and is no longer physically present her on earth, the glory of God has moved. In the Old Testament, God’s glory dwelled first in the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34–38), and then moved to the temple (1 Kings 8:10–11). When Jesus came to earth, God’s glory resided in Him (John 1:14) and now it has moved to the heart of believers.
This means that God’s glory resides in you, the Church (Ephesians 2:21–22). This makes it every Christian’s prerogative to share “the Lord of Glory” with the world. WE ARE TO SHARE GOD’S GLORY - TO MAKE HIS MERCY KNOWN.
We are not to be wrapped up in Necrotainment, nor Middle Class Retirement. We are to be dedicated to sharing God’s mercy with the world!
To make his point – that we should be about sharing Christ, James give us three pieces of furniture to consider. He asks you and me: Is the #1 desire in your life to share the Lord’s glory?
If so, first look at the FOOTSTOOL – READ vs. 2-4
James wanted to help us practice God’s Word, so he gave us a simple test. He sent two visitors to a church service, a rich man and a poor man; and he watched to see how they were treated. Did you put the rich in a place of honor, and the poor on a footstool?
Would we pass this test from James? When we meet someone, don’t we have two measurements that we judge someone by? The first measurement we use is their looks. We ask:
1. How do they look?
We think this determines how good of a person they are.
In our court system today, during a trial, it has been proven that if a person comes into the room in handcuffs and in a prison jumpsuit, the jurors are more likely to find a man guilty. If the defendant comes in wearing a business suit, then he is more likely to get a fair trial.
When a person comes in to our assembly, our place of worship, the same happens – even if it is subliminal. If they are in shabby clothes, we immediately think this person is looking for a hand out. We think this person must have done something to get into this situation. If we are honest, we look down on someone who is dressed like the poor.
So James asks, “how do you treat them? Do you demand that they sit on a footstool?”
In the first century, remember, people walked around barefoot. When they propped their feet on a footstool, there was dirt galore! A footstool was also looked at as a place of defeat. Sometimes a conquering general would actually use new slaves as footstools!
James is saying to us today, don’t put the poor on a footstool. This is literal and figurative. Do not look down on the poor as a person who is only worthy of the dirty seat. Do not look down on the poor as a person who is no more better than a slave. Love them instead.
1 John 4:20 (LB) - If anyone says “I love God,” but… doesn’t love his brother who is right there in front of him, how can he love God whom he has never seen?
The second measurement we use is their past. We ask:
2. What is in their past?
Living in a small town means that people “know.” Whether you like it or not, people will know about all the things you have done.
James says, “imagine someone coming in to your Church with filthy clothes.” Filthy clothes in the first century were a metaphor. They were a symbol for a person who had a horrible past. They have done some despicable things and their bad behavior is worn like rags.
If we know that someone has been pretty bad, we think, “what are they doing here? I know what they are like! A tiger doesn’t change his stripes!”
And this, folks, shows a lack of mercy on our part. Because, how would Jesus treat this person?
Our Lord saw the potential in the lives of sinners. In Simon, He saw a rock. In Matthew, a person who laundered money from the poor as a tax collector, He saw someone who would one day write one of the four Gospels. In a sinful woman at a well in Samaria, Jesus saw someone who could reach her entire village.
We are prone to judge people by their past, not their future. When Saul of Tarsus was converted, the church in Jerusalem was afraid to receive him! It took Barnabas, who believed in Saul’s conversion, to break down the walls (Acts 9:26–28). We also judge by outward appearances rather than by the inner attitude of the heart. We do not enjoy sitting with certain people in church. “They are not our kind of people.”
Jesus was the Friend of sinners. It was not compromise, but compassion, that caused Him to welcome them. When these people trusted Jesus, He forgave them.
Jesus told us:
John 7:24 (NCV) - Stop judging by the way things look, but judge by what is really right.
By putting the poor on a footstool, we’re not showing them mercy. When people see us doing this – being judgmental for the wrong reasons, they don’t see God’s glory in us.
Second piece of furniture: THE PEDESTAL – vs. 5-7
You put the rich up on a pedestal! How?
We celebrate it
We seek it
We believe the lie: Being rich = blessed by God
But James asks, “what do the rich do to you? Aren’t they the ones dragging you to court?”
James says that the rich are using the court system, your government to keep you poor.
Today, we see the rich getting wealthy off of our taxes. The government takes our taxes, and then in the name of stimulus, gives them to wealthy companies.
1 Timothy 6:17-18 (MSG) - Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage— to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous.
Is the answer to put the poor on a pedestal?
It might seem that God does this. How?
Look at VERSE 5 - 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?
It seems that God puts the poor on a pedestal for us in two ways:
1. Makes them rich in faith.
Think of this as an economic stimulus – a faith stimulus! God gives the poor an extra measure of faith. Why? Just because they are poor. By being poor, they have to trust God even more every day: for their next meal, for their bills to be covered, for the basics of life to be taken care of.
The word “poor” in the book of James literally means, “one who crouches and cowers”. It is one who literally takes a beggarly or humble position. The Bible teaches us that we must approach God in a similar humble position. He is great and we are below Him! The poor become our examples, and are rich in faith because of their position in life.
2. God also makes them HEIRS of the kingdom which He promised.
This is why Jesus says:
Luke 6:20 (ESV) - Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
The poor, who had no chance whatsoever in James’ world to change their station in life are made heirs by God. They had no hope and now they do. God promises it to them:
1 John 2:25 (ESV) - And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.
We might think that because they are rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that the poor are put up on a pedestal by God. When you look at the Bible as a whole, you find that Romans 2:11 is true:
Romans 2:11 (ESV) - God shows no partiality.
In reality, God doesn’t want the rich put on a pedestal and doesn’t want the poor – either one on a pedestal. This is why it says in Leviticus 19:15 (NLT) - Do not twist justice in legal matters by favoring the poor or being partial to the rich and powerful. Always judge people fairly.
A Christian puts one person only on a pedestal – Jesus Christ.
That is why in verse 7, James says that there is a "noble name by which you are called".
Christ has called you. Who would claim to be a “Christian”? By saying that you are a Christian, you are saying that you don’t own your life – you are called by Christ. You take on the label of His name and you do what He wants.
AND because You get to be His, you should put Him up on the pedestal. Not the poor, and definitely not the rich. Put Christ on the pedestal – lift Christ up! People will see God’s glory and be attracted to Him.
There is also a third piece of furniture that James deals with: A JUDGES’ BENCH – vs. 8-13
James paints a picture in verse 8 of you standing before God as the JUDGE. He says: (NKJV) - If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well!
He says, one day you will stand before God, and you will be judged. If you have been busy loving your neighbor as yourself, you do well.
You might think, however, that just because you are nice to people, or loving people, God will judge you pretty well.
James takes this thought and in the next few verses, reminds us of how we will be judged by God. He gives us two different standards of judgment that God is going to use when He sits on the Judges’ Bench.
Standard #1 – If you break one law, you break them all.
James says: Verse 10 (NKJV) - For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.
He says that if you do not commit adultery, but commit murder, than you are still guilty! In the same way, if you are judgmental, but let’s say, you are otherwise a good church-goer, you are still guilty. You are a transgressor because you are still sinning by being partial. You still prefer one group and not the other, and therefore you do not really love!
When you stand before God when He sits on the judgment bench, if you have broken one law, you have broken them all!
Standard #2 – Mercy is required.
Every statement of faith ends with a statement about the return of Jesus Christ and the final judgment. We have talked about the reality that each of us have to stand before our Maker and give an account. You will be judged, especially in three areas:
Our words will be judged. What we say to people, and how we say it, will come up before God. Even our careless words will be judged (Matthew 12:36). Of course, the words we speak come from our own heart; so when God judges our words, He is examining our heart (Matthew 12:34–37). Unless there is mercy, our hearts will be shown as rotten!
Our deeds will be judged. It is true that God remembers our sins against us no more (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 10:17); but our sins affect our character and works. We cannot sin lightly and serve faithfully. God forgives our sins, but He does not change their consequences. Jesus (John 5:24) assured us that Christian believers will never be judged for their sins; but our works will be judged and then rewarded (2 Corinthians 5:9–10). Unless there is mercy, we will be empty handed.
Even our attitudes will be judged. In verse 13, James contrasts two attitudes: showing mercy to others, and refusing to show mercy. If we have been merciful toward others, God can be merciful toward us. Showing mercy does not earn us mercy, it simply allows God to be merciful to us.
This is the same that Jesus teaches us. In Matthew chapter 18, Jesus told us a parable about mercy. RETELL THE PARABLE OF THE MASTER & THE WICKED SERVANT…
Matthew 18:32-35 (ESV) - Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.
When your words, deeds, and attitudes are judged, we are in trouble! Mercy is needed. In every area, you are in danger of transgression. We know the truth and yet we say we will do things our own way. Here's the truth and I am going to stand over there instead! We don’t deserve it, but James reminds us that mercy will TRIUMPH OVER JUDGMENT!
This is exactly why James gives us these three pieces of furniture. He wants you to look at each and ask yourself some deep questions:
• Judges seat – do you show mercy?
• Pedestal – do you lift Christ up?
• Footstool – How do you treat he poor? Are you taking the low seat and putting others in front of you?
The bottom line for each of these is: Do you have a heart that shows the world the “GLORY OF OUR LORD”?
What are you living for?
Clearly our world with its “Necro-tainment” lifts up wealth and fame.
The world has also put in front of us the dream of MIDDLE CLASS RETIREMENT. It lifts up comfort and says, “pursue this!”
But what is God lifting up? God is lifting up a heart of mercy and says, “pursue this!”
Pursue a heart that shows the world who God truly is. Too many think that God is unloving and is full of wrath. God wants you to know that He is a God of mercy!
Ephesians 2:4-5 (ESV) - But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved!
MERCY TRIUMPHS OVER JUDGMENT!!!
He offers mercy to you today through His grace, have you placed your faith in Jesus Christ?