James 2:1-13 (Playing Favorites)
I am sure that in recent weeks you have noticed this PowerPoint slide that reads,
“You Belong, Where the Imperfect are Perfectly Welcome”.
This one slide speaks volumes!
It tells a lot about the Newark church of Christ family.
It tells those who walk through these doors, that no matter where they come from and no matter what has taken place in their past, they will be welcomed here.
We believe in new beginnings and innumerable chances;
However many it takes to get on track.
Chances that have been made available only through the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ.
You see, we empathize with people who are looking for a place of acceptance because we have been there ourselves.
We don’t condone sin of any kind, whether it is socially acceptable or not; but we do encourage acceptance of all those who are seeking Christ.
You see, it is far too easy to judge a person according to their past.
We believe that God is more concerned about our future.
The past is just that, the past. It is gone, we can’t change it, but we can change ourselves.
Where we see failures, setbacks, and disappointments, Christ sees potential.
Jer 29:11-13 I like what the Lord said in Jeremiah.
“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
Although this message was originally for the nation of Israel, I believe that the principle found within applies to all those who seek the Lord with all their heart.
No matter where we have been, where we come from, or what we have done; Christ died for all.
James 2:1 My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism.
* There seems to be some confusion as to what James is writing about.
He is in no way implying that life should be fair, nor is he suggesting that everyone should be treated equally in all areas of life. WE can learn from the bible what it doesn’t mean.
* It doesn’t mean that we will all have the same abilities or spiritual gifts.
Rom 12:6 “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.”
God chooses the gifts that we receive.
We will either discover them, refine them, and use them to His glory, or we will not.
Since we have different gifts does that make God a respecter of persons? Of course not!
God distributes abilities and gifts according to His divine wisdom and purpose.
Our job is to put them to use for his glory.
* It doesn't mean that we have to treat all people equally.
Years ago I was bless with the opportunity and challenge of coaching Little League Baseball.
Some were compliant; others defiant who needed more attention.
Some had more natural ability that others who needed more attention.
I even had one mother tell me that I was going to damage her son’s self esteem by taking him out of a ball game.
* In Matthew chapter 20 Jesus told an interesting parable.
(12-15) 'These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.'
"But he answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius?
Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you.
Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?'
You see, sometimes we want to shout “UNFAIR”, “UNFAIR”, when someone else receives a blessing.
It would be better to say, “Praise God for this person’s generosity; because he/she has blessed others.
Gal 6:10 “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
We are commanded to do good to all people; but someone has to be first!
* When James writes “don’t show favoritism” he doesn’t mean that it is wrong to assign certain task to those with different abilities.
Jesus hand picked Paul to be an apostle long after he chose the original twelve; and gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:19).
Did that make Jesus a respecter of persons?
Of course not…He wasn’t playing favorites; He was doing what was necessary to fulfill his purpose.
Even out of the 12 Jesus had 3 who were obviously closer to Him; Peter, James & John.
So what does James mean when he says, “Don’t show favoritism”?
I like the way the Theological Dictionary of the NT describes “favoritism”-
“the fault of one, who when called on to give judgment has respect of the outward circumstances of man and not to their intrinsic merits, and so prefers, as the more worthy, one who is rich, high born, or powerful, to another who does not have these qualities.”
An attitude of personal favoritism translates the Greek as literally meaning the lifting up someone’s face, with the idea of judging by appearance and on that basis giving special favor and respect. It basically boils down to judging a person on a superficial level.
* The illustration that James uses in chapter two is of one we might call a church usher who is given the responsibility to decide where people are to sit.
The bottom line of the scenario is that the usher gave special attention to one of the men based on his appearance and the assumption that he was wealthy.
If a person is given preferential treatment because of money, popularity, or power, then we have discriminated among ourselves and “become judges with evil thoughts”.
I am positive that if someone walked through our doors today wearing an expensive suit and lots of bling that he would receive the same treatment as everyone else.
He wouldn’t be given special treatment, because everyone here is special.
Ill. Many years ago a lady from a large church in our area asked me what I thought about men serving the Lord’s Supper in blue jeans.
With as much tact and respect I could muster, my response went something like this.
I find it hard to believe that God is concerned about the color of the pants or the material out of which they are made, for those who wait on the Lord’s Table.
I believe that God is more concerned with the attitude of the heart than He is with the clothes on the body.
The dress code for the Lord’s Supper should be the same one God has for every public event;
Although I didn’t say it at the time I was thinking that the real problem was not with the pants that a man might wear to serve; but rather the heart of the person who was passing judgment on them.
* When this church first asked me to serve as minister, I preached in blue jeans.
My most recent jobs had not require “dress clothes” so I owned very few.
After a while, mom gave me some money to buy some different clothes to preach in, so I honored her wish and purchased some slacks and nice shirts.
I am wearing Wranglers today, not as a show of disrespect to any person especially our Lord, but as a reminder that one can serve the Lord just as well in blue jeans as he can in a suit.
Ill. It took Peter a long time to understand the principle that James is teaching us today; and he was an apostle!
Relate Acts 10 and the house of Cornelius the Gentile.
“Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.”
He finally realized that salvation was not an exclusive club for a chosen few.
* I wonder if every child has an exclusive club at some time in their life?
When a couple of close friends decide to start a club but only allow certain ones to join.
Likewise, when we think of the body of Christ and the children of God, I wonder who we would exclude?
Surely we all carry a little prejudice in our baggage.
Could it be someone whose skin is a little darker than ours?
Perhaps it is someone whose past is a little more tainted than ours.
It could even be someone who doesn’t dress quite the way we want them to.
* Ill. A man by the name of John Barrier had done business with Old National Bank, now U.S. Bank in Spokane, WA for over 30 years.
He made his money buying and refurbishing old buildings and was wearing his shabby clothes when he walked into his bank in October 1988.
He cashed a check for $100, and asked the clerk to validate his 50 cent parking ticket.
The attendant looked him over and informed him that they only validated tickets when a transaction takes place; and cashing a check was not considered a transaction.
He asked the teller to call a bank manager who also refused to stamp his parking ticket.
He said, “Fine, you don’t need me and I don’t need you.”
Mr. Barrier withdrew all of his money and took it down the street to Seafirst Bank.
The first check he deposited was for one million dollars.
John Barrier was quoted as saying, “If you have $1 in a bank or one million, I think they owe you the courtesy of stamping your parking ticket.”
* One might be a victim of discrimination, prejudice, or favoritism while on this earth but there is One who is always consistent, always true, and always available for those who seek Him with all their heart; Jesus Christ.
He doesn’t care if we are black, white, brown, yellow, red or purple.
He isn’t concerned if we are rich or poor, a CEO or a ditch digger.
He healed the sick; cast out demons, and preached the good news to everyone He met.
He gave opportunity to the religious elite as well as the beggar; godly women as well as harlots; and high priest as well as the common folks.
Jesus is concerned about the soul of every person.
That is why it is said of Him that He is “No respecter of persons”.
“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture,
"Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right.
But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.”
The cure for favoritism and prejudice is love.
To love our neighbor as we love ourselves and to love them the same way that God does; Not with the superficial inconsistencies of life but with a focus on the potential that God has set before them.
It is when we see others as God sees them that
“Mercy will truly triumph over judgment!”