James – Favoritism

What is your favorite food, or your favorite color?  Do you have a favorite TV show or movie?  What is your favorite bible verse or what is your favorite story?  Do you have a best friend?

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.

-James 2:1 (NIV), emphasis added

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I read this as a small child after someone had told me it was a sin to have favorites.  I couldn’t believe I was supposed to love chocolate cake and broccoli the same.  I feared living in the sin of having favorites.  As I grew older I realized having a favorite food wasn’t the favorite James is talking about.

Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If 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,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

James 2:2-4 (NIV), emphasis added

We are discriminating when we show favoritism towards certain types of people.  We are to not withhold or give glory, love, affection, hospitality, friendship, mercy, kindness, or service to people based upon their external appearance.  You can discriminate based on age, race, gender, where someone lives, what they wear, how much money they have, their hairstyle, etc.  We are not to treat only certain people as Jesus would treat them, we are to treat all people like Jesus would treat them.  James is telling us here that showing favoritism, judging someone based on outward appearances, treating someone different from others, is a sin.  He is telling us that it does not matter what a person looks like or where they come from or what they have. We are not to play favorites!

When you show favoritism, when you discriminate, you show that you do not fully understand God’s grace.  You dishonor God and you reveal you do not understand the gospel.  It does not matter what you look like, what you have or what you have done. God extends His grace to us through His Son, Jesus and promises us the riches of His kingdom to those who love Him.

When you show favorites you deny the gospel truths. You suggest something different about the God you claim to love, serve and follow. God does not play favorites. The grace of God is available to everyone!  We are all sinners and we all need God’s grace to save us.  The beautiful thing is that God does not play favorites. No matter what age, race, or gender we are, or where we live or what we wear or how much money we have, God extends His grace to all of us!

We all are sinners and we all need Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Nothing we do, nothing we say, nothing we have will get us to heaven. Because we all sin, we are separated from God and we need His grace to be saved.  Once you realize that, once you understand that without God’s grace we are dead, you begin to extend that same grace to those around you, because you know that God’s grace is for everyone.  No matter what they look like, what they wear, how old they are, how much money they have, where they come from, God does not care. He wants to save us all.

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life

-John 3:16 (NIV), emphasis added

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes

-Romans 1:16a (NIV), emphasis added

Jesus came to die for all, not just you, but everyone at work, everyone at your school, in your family, everyone you see and don’t see, EVERYONE.  And we need to stop treating people like God does not love them.

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

-James 2:5-7 (NIV), emphasis added

Why would these people want to favor those who were mistreating them?!  They are dragging them to court, exploiting them, talking bad about the God they serve!  So why would they honor them? For the money?! When I read this, I could not believe that someone want to be around his abusers and treat them as if they had done no wrong.  And then I realized we do the same thing. I did it for years!

I had a best friend my senior year of high school whom I loved with all that I had.  We would go to the movies together, have sleepovers and go shopping, we’d buy each other gifts.  I cried tears of joy upon seeing her when we were reunited after I had spend the summer away.  We even had cutesy nicknames for each other. She was very popular and no one popular had ever wanted to hang out with me. I loved being her friend.

She would ask me to lie for her. She did not want her parents knowing she smoked. She would lie to me. And not just about little things. She told other people lies about me.  I had a feeling she was not being honest with me and telling lies about me, but I stayed her friend. Because I was so desperate for a best friend, a bestie, to be popular and to not be labeled as the nerd anymore. I was so desperate for someone besides family to love me, that I stayed friends with this abusive girl.

James accuses us in the middle of this text of doing what I did. He tells us, “You so want to be loved by the world, you so want to be accepted by the world, you want to be labeled as cool and popular and wanted, you want to be applauded by them, you want to be seen as normal and so you dishonor your eternal brother and cozy up and cuddle up next to those who belittle the name of your God, who mock you, and who make life difficult for you.”

I see this in everyday life.  Self-proclaimed Christians hanging out and snuggling up to the very same people who mistreat them every chance they get, and for what? Popularity? Love? Acceptance? Money? Friendship? Respect? Why put those people on a pedestal? They do not deserve it. Why put yourself through that pain? Stop pushing God away by honoring those who do not deserve it and start opening your heart to God’s love, start loving.

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.

-James 2:8 (NIV), emphasis added

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Keep the royal law, the law of God and that law is love. It is founded upon God’s love for us!  Jesus came to this earth, humbled himself by becoming a human, and serving those around him, and He gave up his life for us so that we can become sons and daughters of God.  And until you fully understand what God has done for you, you cannot truly live as we are called to live: Love God and love people!  That is the whole bible: Love God and love people!

Keep the royal law, the law of God and that law is love. It is founded upon God’s love for us!  Jesus came to this earth, humbled himself by becoming a human, and serving those around him, and He gave up his life for us so that we can become sons and daughters of God.  And until you fully understand what God has done for you, you cannot truly live as we are called to live: Love God and love people!  That is the whole bible: Love God and love people!

“The most important one [the most important law/commandment],” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

-Mark 12:29-31 (NIV), emphasis added

What James is writing, what is happening in the church, is that there are those who are deceived by whether or not they’re a Christian and they are actually not fulfilling either one of these obligations. They are not serious about loving the Lord and they definitely are not serious about loving their neighbor. So what is happening is that the name of Christ is being soiled.

Everything rests on those two commandments.  Love!

Do you love God more than anything else in life? Do you love your neighbor? I do not just mean the person living next to you.  What about those at church or at the grocery store? Do you love all of them?  Do you treat them the same as your family and friends? Are you playing favorites, discriminating, and not loving people? If you do not love people, you show that you do not love God.  I do not want you guys to be deceived. I want you to know that if you do not do what the word of God says, if you do not love God with all that you are, and in turn, love everyone around you, everyone you come in contact with, you are showing everyone, including yourself, you are not saved.

But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

-James 2:9-11 (NIV), emphasis added

So whether you lie or swear or murder or show favoritism, you have broken the law and are considered a lawbreaker, a sinner. If you commit one sin, you are a sinner.  That’s how it works in the eyes of God.  He does not play favorites with people. You are a sinner no matter what sin you commit, and every sin, no matter how big or little you think it is, separates you from God.

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom

-James 2:12 (NIV)

This goes hand in hand with what I wrote last week in James – Do What It Says.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

-James 1:22 (NIV), emphasis added

James says the church needs to be quick to hear and do what the Lord Jesus has said. If we hear the Word of the Lord and do not do what it says, it reveals we might not have truly been saved. So if you are reading this, or your bible, and think, “I do not care, I will play favorites if I want” then you might not be saved.  But if you are reading this and are thinking, “Man, I’ve been doing it wrong.  God wants me to treat everyone as He would treat them,” that is good! If you hear the Word of God and want to make a change, want to become more like him, then you are a Christ follower.

You do not have to be perfect to be a Christ follower. I’m saying that if you do not have a desire change and you do not try to change, that equates to being a nonbeliever. If you say you are saved and do not make a change you are not a Christian.  We need to wrestle with our sinful selves and we need to work on changing. But as long as you think you’re saved when everything you say and do is says you’re not, you are not saved.

because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

-James 2:13 (NIV), emphasis added

God will judge all of us, and if you do not show mercy, God will not show you mercy.

Okay, this one is hard.  You need to know that faith without mercy towards others is not genuine faith. Faith without mercy towards others is not genuine faith.

It is not really faith. So if you’re saying, “I have faith. I trust in Jesus. I trust in His forgiveness. I trust in His mercy,” and yet you refuse to extend that to anyone else, that reveals something is broken in your heart and you do not understand;  you don’t understand Jesus, you don’t understand what it means to be a Christ follower.

We have to fight against the urge to pick favorites. I have to, our pastors have to, everyone has to! And we have to fight the urge by laying our urges before the Lord. We need to confess, seek help, and ask the Lord to work on us. So I’m not saying you need to be perfect or there is no genuine faith; I’m saying you need to wrestle with the sin in your life or there is no genuine faith.  You need to be praying about where you are struggling and ask God to work in you!

So here is the command. Mercy triumphs over judgment. So remember the mercy that was shown to you. Remember where you were when Christ found you. Remember he rescued you, remember he ransomed you, and in your remembrance of God’s forgiving grace and mercy, extend it to others.

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