Life Lessons from Hard Times – Studies in James
One bedrock principle of the Church is that the ground at the base of the cross is level. All are sinners. All are in need of salvation. Grace is a free gift of God, not earned. Personal standing or merit has no basis.
In that regard, all men and women are made in the image of God and deserving of respect, accord, affirmation – without discrimination or favoritism. For the early church, the pattern was developing for discriminating of believers based on financial or community standing. And this is even considering that the majority of early church members were converted slaves! Even so, James tackles this wrong thinking and wrong behavior straight up.
James 2:1-4 1My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious LORD Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3If 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,” 4have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Three Critical Principles Should Govern our Thinking:
1. The Guiding Truth: No Favoritism. James has already established that the brother in humble circumstances should take pride in his high position (1:9). Further, those who practice pure religion care for widows and orphans in their distress. Note: Caring for the needy means their dire circumstances are shared by you. Now James bootstraps on these principles and insists we treat all people, especially brothers and sisters in the church, without distinction or partiality, regardless of their station or standing in life. This moral truth should drive us and our thinking.
2. Special Attention or Favor to the Rich Over the Poor. Can you imagine this? The majority of these congregations were slaves. That is why the early church met on Sunday evenings. It was the only time of the week where slaves were allowed time away from their work! And despite that, if a wealthy congregant attended these church meetings, they were singled out, held up, seated up front, shown off, as if the church had more societal standing based on the attendees. God forbid. That is contrary to grace, to salvation principles, and to all people made in the image of God, and saved by grace and not by works (or standing).
3. Favoritism Rooted in Evil Thinking. Best to call this what it is. It is not just societal norms or convention, a tipping of the hat to our culture in the church, but an evil and wrong thinking that uses the world’s standards of status as applied to the church.
Christians are to be a humble and distinct people – offering a hand of comfort and grace and assistance to the needy – not only because it is honorable to them as made in the image of God, but also because it reflects Jesus, who modeled a care and compassion for the weak, the homeless, the ones who knew they had no standing or claim to ask for help. We do best when we walk in the road Jesus walked – that is why I love to stay in the Gospels for life inspiration. God’s blessing to you as you measure your life by Truth and Love by these standards.
– John Moore