The Epistle of James 2: 1-10, 14-17
My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
Let us Pray: Almighty God, creator, and upholder of all things, take from our hearts that hatred which judges others by the color of their skin and condemns others for the class of their families, so that love may rule, and justice prevail to the benefit of all; for Christ’s sake. Amen.
I am deviating this week and reflecting on the Epistle of James as it is so relevant to today’s world.
Today in America we may not think of social class as a problem, yet it is worth asking how comfortable the people in our congregations are when encountering people who visibly belong to a different social class. Networks of friendships often run along the lines created by income levels, education, and professional status. Perhaps we do not say to a poorly dressed person, “Stand there,” or “Sit at my feet” but we may well leave them standing by saying nothing at all. Today’s world still has the sin that James writes against in our text. His focus is on the sin of showing favoritism to the rich and despising the poor, but his words apply to all types of prejudice, whether it is based on economic status, race, or anything else. To favor some people and to disregard others based on outward factors is a terrible sin that plagued the early church in James’ day. It has plagued the church in every generation because it stems from pride, which is flourishing and still lives today. The practice of partiality still persists in often subtle ways, but it is still there. James tries to get us to see how petty our distinctions between the rich and poor and any other distinctions really are. Even the most powerfully rich men on earth are nothing compared to the glory of Jesus Christ, the King of kings When we exalt men on account of their wealth or power or status, we rob glory from Jesus Christ, who sovereignly gives us everything that we are and have. We all are just His unworthy servants. Focusing on the glory of Christ puts us all in our proper place before Him. James said that when we make distinctions among people based on outward factors, we set ourselves up as judges with evil motives or, thoughts. We don’t see the hearts of men, as God does. To judge a man based on his outward appearance is to usurp the place of Jesus Christ in His glory as judge of all the earth. You’d think that the church would be a place where class falls away and we are all equal as children at the feet of Jesus. Unfortunately, it wasn’t so in New Testament days, and it isn’t so in our own. James calls on us to recognize the problem and deal with it. We are not doing a good job of living up to the words today of James as favoritism and discrimination in all their various forms are real and present in our world today. At some level, we all have been discriminated against whether that was because of how we looked, how we sounded when we talked, whether we were to skinny or to fat, whether we were athletic or not athletic, smart or not to smart. How we reacted when you are discriminated says a lot about you, but James says God is not concerned so much about how you react when discriminated as He is in whether you are treating everyone as equally valuable. So as a follower of Jesus you are going to show respect to everyone, you are going to be kind to everyone, are you are going to love and care for everyone. It doesn’t matter who they are red, yellow, black or white they are all precious in God’s sight. So we need to remember the words of the second greatest commandment ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
Let us Pray: God, Your grace reaches out to all of us. You call us to live as citizens of heaven, working together with one heart and mind. Strengthen us to live in a manner worthy of the Good News we have received, offering our lives in service of Your kingdom, This we pray in your name. Amen