“My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. 2 For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, 3 and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?” To be prejudiced means to pre-judge someone in a prideful and discriminatory way. Instead of giving favor (like God does for us through the gospel) we do the opposite and make them sit on the floor as seen in the example above. And to add insult to injury we show favor to others for selfish (“evil”) motives – to get something from them; status or financial benefits (for the church in the example above). James, the half-brother of Jesus, was like Him in this way as our Lord never showed partiality to any one and especially for selfish motives; status, financial gain or popularity (Matt. 22:16). He spent time with the poor and the outcasts of society and yet equally loved and cared for the rich. Remember Zaccheus the rich, sinful tax collector (Luke 19:1-10) whom Jesus led to salvation.
Apart from salvation and walking in the Spirit, we practice the sin of prejudice and favoritism in many ways; racial, gender, level of formal education, wealth, career position, political position, possessions (homes, cars, clothes), name dropping, etc. We pre-judge because of sinful pride and we show favoritism for selfish gain. Yet our Lord looks at a man’s heart and inner character, not his outward appearance. “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) “And He (Jesus) said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15)
“Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? 7 Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?” The Lord does not love the poor or choose the poor just because they are poor, but their need generally makes them more open to His salvation. The folks in Laodicea bragged about their wealth and self-sufficiency and Jesus rebuked them for it by contrasting their material wealth to their spiritual poverty: “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” (Revelation 3:17) And in the example above, the rich folks seemed to be unsaved Jews who were coming into the church flaunting their wealth and position and dragging those who believed in Jesus into court. “Do they not blaspheme the fair name (Christian) by which you have been called?” Yet some of the church leaders were kowtowing to them for selfish gain.
James now shows us that the gospel is filled with mercy and grace, not with prideful judgment or the desire for sinful gain. Mercy is not getting the punishment we deserve and grace is getting even more than we deserve. God is merciful and graceful and we are to be like Him. “If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. 11 For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.” The royal law of love is seen throughout the Old and New Testament. It is seen in the Ten Commandments and Jesus summarized them in the Great Commandment by saying we are to love God with all our being and love our neighbor just as much as we love (think about, care for, want the best for) ourselves. If we are pridefully judging and withholding from our “neighbor” or sinfully catering to our “neighbor” for selfish gain, it is not love. It is the royal law because it comes from the King and it is the highest law in the land: “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) It is also called the law of liberty because it sets us free from pride, selfishness, hatred and unforgiveness.
“For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” We see where this is true in the gospel: “He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Jesus as the God/Man voluntarily chose to bear our sin and judgment and take God’s just wrath for our sin because of the mercy of God. James is writing to believers here (2:1) and our judgment for being merciless will come at the judgment seat of Christ. Through Christ all of our sins are forgiven but every sin has consequences both in this life and forever: “If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. 15 But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.” (1 Corinthians 3:14-15) As believers we will suffer loss for being merciless. It is a strong motivation to repent of prideful judgment and prejudice toward others. “O people, the Lord has told you what is good,and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
“Red and yellow, black and white they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little (and big) children of the world.” There will be no prejudice in heaven and Jesus tells us to pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Here is a heavenly scene showing us the unity of all people as we join together in one voice to praise and honor our glorious Lord and King: “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 7:9-12)
Until He comes again,
Len and Kristen