James 2:1-13 ESV
1 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? 8 If you really fulfill 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 but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
The Church cannot be partial.
1. James is addressing the church when he says, “My brothers.” He is confronting an issue in the church that still exists because sin still exists.
James is not addressing your taste in music or decor or dress or hair style or your favorite place to eat after church on Sunday. He is addressing how we treat other people. God does not care what your clothes look like as long as they are covering you up or what your music sounds like as long as the lyrics glorify him. You can be partial to country music or gospel music or a vegetarian diet. James is addressing the church placing one group of people above another.
2. Sin groups people in a diﬀerent way than faith does.
Sin separates us by our diﬀerences. You’re white, you’re black, you’re poor, you’re rich, you’re fat, you’re skinny, you’re a woman, you’re a man, you’re from the right side of the tracks, you’re from the wrong side, and on and on. It is the easiest way for Satan to keep us divided. It is the laziest of sins. It takes no eﬀort to point out the diﬀerence.
Romans 3:21-24 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justiﬁed by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…
3. The things that we highlight as diﬀerences don’t even matter to God.
1 Samuel 16:6-7 6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.” 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
Partiality causes you to become the very thing you hate.
2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and ﬁne clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the ﬁne clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in theworld to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
1. James uses a hypothetical yet believable scenario for them to consider. The church was showing favoritism to the more wealthy, and in a situation where a judgement had to be made, it was clear who would get the preferable treatment. The irony in this story is that the church had become the very thing they hated. They had failed to make the connection between how they were treating people and how they had been treated.
James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.
2. If you have been on the receiving end of injustice or discrimination because of your economic status or background or skin color, the worst thing that could happen is that you perpetuate the very thing that was committed against you. The church has to rise above it all. James was writing to people who were facing persecution and poverty yet were showing partiality. Instead of being full of grace for everyone, they picked sides.
Mercy wins every time.
1. Jesus gives us an example of receiving mercy but not giving it in return.
Matthew 18:23-35 23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
2. James is reminding the church how much mercy they have recieved. The Holy Spirit has given us the ability and example to love people as we love ourselves. Loving God with everything we have and loving people as ourselves sums up the whole law.
The issue is we live in a culture that can’t love themselves. If you are trying to love others out of a hatred for yourself, it never works. Grace and love for others originates from being keenly aware that you were the object of the love of God, and he gave Jesus for you. You were worth it to him, and the person that you are trying to love was just as worth it. You have value, and by that logic they also have value.
1. What stood out to you most from this week’s message?
2. What are some differences you have witnessed between church cultures that distract and prevent us from being one in the body of Christ?
3. What are some “Christian” characteristics that we especially admire? How can this put us at risk of placing some people higher than others?
4. Why is it difficult to remember sometimes that we must extend the same grace and mercy to others that we want for ourselves?
5. Jesus called us to love others as we love ourselves. What prevents us from loving ourselves?
6. How can we learn to truly believe that God values and loves us? How would that change how we view ourselves?
7. If we believe God loves and values us, how can that change how we see others and how we treat them?
8. What do you plan to do differently because of this week’s message?