Partiality Displeases Jesus
James continues to develop his concept of doing the word with a specific example. He said that the church is wrong to favor the rich over the poor. In is example, a well dressed man and a man dressed in shabby clothing both come to worship. We find a good seat for the well dressed man. We make the shabby man stand off to the side or sit on the floor. James condemns this. He commands us to do the opposite. The first sentence of chapter 2 says “…sow no partiality as you hold the faith…” Implied in this is that faith in Christ and partiality are incompatible.
The Old Testament is full of warnings against partiality. Here are some examples:
Deuteronomy 16:19 says “You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality…”.
2 Chronicles 19:7 says “Now then let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the Lord our God, or partiality or taking bribes.”
Proverbs 28:21 says “To show partiality is not good…”
The New Testament continued this principle as Peter and Paul both condemned partiality. Now James does it too.
James said, if you show partiality, you are judges with evil thoughts. You dishonor the poor man. Then, he gives 3 reasons this is a bad practice.
First, James said “has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom”? (5) If God chose them, we should not un-choose them. Jesus showed his love for the poor in many ways. He preached to large crowds of poor people. They travelled from little villages to hear him. He spoke to a few who were well off but generally spoke to the poor. He healed diseases, drove demons out of the possessed, made the lame walk, cleansed lepers and made the blind see. He instructed us to give to the needy. (Matthew 6:1) He told us not to seek riches. (Matthew 6:19) He told John’s disciples to tell John several things to show he was the Messiah, including “the poor have good news preached to them”. (Matthew 11:5) Paul wrote thatGod chose what is low and despised in the world so that no human being might boast in God’s presence. (1 Corinthians 1:28-29)
Further, if God chose a person to come into his kingdom, who are we to treat that person as a second class citizen of that kingdom.
Second, James says the rich are the ones who oppress the believers and drag them into court. They were able to use the government and courts to get what they wanted from the poor. (2:6)
In James’ time especially, the rich could oppress the poor. It is likely the most of the believers who had fled Jerusalem for other lands were poor and easily oppressed in the countries they moved to. My child in France has experienced discrimination in obtaining an apartment. While this goes on in the world, it is not to occur amongst believers.
Third, James says the rich are the ones who blaspheme the name of Jesus. (2:7)
At the heart of the law is to love your neighbor as yourself. Look at verse 8: “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture You shall love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well.” He calls this the Royal Law. “Royal” could also mean most important. I think he refers to Jesus’ statement in Matthew 22:36 and following. Jesus said the most important commandment was to love the Lord and the second was to love others as ourself.
Also at the heart of this is humility. The issue is not money itself. It is how that money affects a person. If it makes you arrogant, prideful and greedy, you are condemned. If you abuse your employees, you are a person like the rich person James describes. But there are people who own companies who treat their employees well.
We are not to think of others in the kingdom as having less worth than ourselves. We are not to show partiality to those who have financial success. We should love each other, serve each other, and respect each other. If we do not, James says we sin. (9)
There are those among us who have problems. It may be poverty, sickness or failed relationships. Verse 13 says we are to have mercy on those brothers and sisters. Mercy triumphs over judgment. God shows mercy to those who are merciful. Give me mercy over judgment any day.