Title: THE SHAME OF SNOBBERY
Text: James 2:1-13
By our own American standards, not many of us are rich. But most of us could probably name someone we know or have met that is rich. For those of us who manage to just squeak by, our money comes hard and it seems an up and down battle to get ahead. Under such circumstances, it could be a temptation to give a rich person preferential treatment in hope that they might bless us with their wealth. In a church setting where the body depends upon the giving of each other to support ministries and property, this may become a preferential treatment issue. If not for money, special honor for position, power or honor could put us in a position of preferential treatment. Our study in James addresses this issue. Read Text.
Chapter one ends with the words, “Pure and undefiled religion is to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” Orphans and widows are those who can be easily overlooked. This must not happen to those who have the spirit of Christ. Chapter two opens with the thought that if you have faith in Jesus, you will not show favoritism in your treatment of those who visit your assembly.
1. Let’s first examine what the Jews were originally told concerning favoritism. What is it according to Lev. 19:15? What was Jesus’ reputation about favoritism according to Mk. 12:14? What did Jesus say the focus of his ministry was according to Lk. 4:18-19?
2. Why was favoritism a stumbling point particularly to the Jew? (They were owners of the Law and oracles of God; children of promise; God made a covenant with them; chosen of God.) What did God have to do with Peter to shake him free of the snobbery of favoritism? Acts 10:9-22, 34-35
3. Skin color, clothing, home, car, bank account, reputation or social position may distinguish us differently from one another, but what do we all have in common according to Prov. 22:2?
4. Will God show partiality on the day when we all stand before Him? Rom. 2:5-11
5. It is obvious by James’ illustration that there were social problems of the rich versus the poor even in his day. The problems are still with us. Why is it that the church must be the one place where all distinctions are to be wiped out? (Because in the King’s court, there is not distinction of rank and prestige. We were all made from dust, and to dust we will return; our own righteousness is as filthy rags; in God’s presence we are all one.)
6. Verse 4 gives a clear indication as to why people have prejudices and show favoritism. What is it? (You judge with evil motives.)
7. Explain the question in verse 5. (God chose the poor of this world to birth His Son [son of a carpenter], Jesus’ birth was announced to shepherds. Abe Lincoln: “God must love the common people because He made so many of them.”)
8. Comment on what you think of this statement: “The Gospel offered so much to the poor and demanded so much from the rich, that it was the poor who were swept into the Church at the beginning.”
9. Is James shutting the door to the rich here in this passage? Explain. (Far from that. He is saying that the Gospel of Christ is specially dear to the poor and that in it there is a welcome for the man who has no one to welcome him.)
10. What should be our unbiased opinion of the poor? Prov. 21:13
11. It is not money that potentially condemns the rich, but something else that is their potential pitfall. What is it? (Putting it before God; an attitude of riches without sympathy toward others. Evidently in James’ day the rich oppressed the poor, dragging them into courts to demand payment of debts from those who owed them. It’s this conduct that James condemns.
12. To keep such treatment from happening, what is James’ advice as to how to treat the poor? (Verse 8 – You treat people as you would like them to treat you, regardless of their financial status.)
13. According to James, how serious is it to show partiality? (Verse 9 – To do so is a sin and you will be convicted along with other transgressors.)
14. Explain verse 10 in your own words. (Commentary: A man may possess all kinds of good qualities and in merely all respects be a good man, yet if he has one fault, all his goodness will not save him; he is guilty of sin that numbers him with the transgressors.)
15. What do you think the law of liberty is all about in verse 12? (He who shows mercy will find mercy. Matt. 5:7; 6:14-15; Ja. 2:13)
Why does favoritism hurt a church? How can you guard against showing favoritism? Do you find it more difficult to love yourself or love your neighbor?