Favoritism

My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?

For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?

Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear?

Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.

INTRODUCTION

In chapter one James dealt with our PATIENCE in enduring trials, temptations, test, and troubles. In chapter two he deals with the PRACTICE of our faith. James is not all that impressed with PROFESSION OF FAITH, he demands a faith that is PRACTICED. Many professing Christians talk about what they believe but they do not the courage and faith to put it into practice.

TRANSITION

A good test of our faith is in how we deal with others, especially those who have less than we do. We are not rich by our society’s standard but neither are we poor. There are many who have less than we do materially. Some have less intellectually. If we despise [look down] on these people, we have failed the bar [ROYAL LAW TEST]. John said, “If a man says he loves God but hates his brother, he is a liar.” Tonight, we are going to examine what James says about partiality and playing favorites.

I. FAVORITISM TEMPS OUR HUMAN NATURE

We are all tempted to be partial, to play favorites; it is engrained deeply in our human nature. James uses the illustration of two strangers walking into a worship service: one is rich and the other is poor. This will put our faith to the test. Our tendency is to kiss up to the person with money and to ignore the poor person. James says, “You bring the rich to an honorable seat and say “sit here,” but to the poor man you say, “You can stand in the back or sit on the floor.”

Dr. Warren Wiersbe says, “Every church has cliques” and I agree. It is our human nature to hang out with those to which we have the most in common. If there had not been a problem in the Jerusalem church, James would not be addressing the issue. It was a problem then and it is a problem now. Is it here? Yes, it is everywhere. BUT not only is it our tendency to treat people differently because of their economic, social or mental status: it is our tendency to deny that we do so. If you interviews churches in this area and ask them the question: Do you despiser poor people? All of them would say no and all would be lying.

A clique is nothing more than a group that shares common interest and are not open to those who do not share the same interest. We are a middle class blue collar congregation. We will not reach any of the socially elite [Doctors, Lawyers, rich folks]. They may build a house in the country but they will drive to town to go to church. We have socially elite churches here in Morgan County. In Baptist circles I can name all three. We will reach a few poor people but they will not reach any: there is too big of a social gap. You can bridge one but not two. An elite church will reach a few middle class folks who are “Want-to-bees” but they will not jump to that third socio-economic level. A middle class church can reach some but not many. To reach the poor, you need a mission and possibly a missionary.

I want you to think about this: how do we react when a poor bus child walked in the door? We have come a long ways because I can remember the days when several members wanted to close the WEE Care down. The majority of people who use our Child Care [Not pre-school] are lower middle or poor. They are young folks struggling to make ends meet. The children who ride our van are poor. They parents do not work. They are either drawing a disability check or a welfare check. Trust me, they are poor. Their living conditions at home are deplorable to most of us but they seem to be happy. I have not seen one person be ugly to these children. I think we would be nice to a rich person but in all probability, they are not coming back.

James says, “suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person.

First of all, there is the matter in which we judge people: it is by their appearance. Fancy clothes and expensive jewelry get our attention. We judge people by:

  1. Appearance
  2. Economic Status
  3. Habits, Lifestyle
  4. Mannerisms
  5. History
  6. Culture
  7. Ethnic origin

The words “Give special attention” [respect in many translations] means pandering or in today’s terminology, “Kissing up.” So we are talking about ostentatious wealth and sometimes we kiss up to wealth, success, position, fame, etc. Sometimes we make fools of ourselves. Most wealthy people are screwed: they are not idiots. They know when you are kissing up and it will not work.

So we kiss up to the rich man because we think he might give us a tithe or help us in some way but we despise the poor man, not in what we say but how we say, “Stand on the wall or sit in the floor, it doesn’t matter.”

II. FAVORITISM DEFIES THE KINGDOM PRINCIPLE

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” In Luke, He says, “Blessed are the poor.” Someone said, God must love poor people because He made so many of them. Less than 2% of the worlds 7 billion people are millionaires and only .000000256 % are billionaires and this tiny group controls 7 trillion dollars of the world’s wealth. God uses poor people. How many preachers and missionaries come from the 2% of the wealthy?

Is it possible to be poor in this life and rich in the coming life? Is it possible to be rich now and poor in the next world? Lazarus was a beggar in this world whereas Dives was filthy rich and lived in luxury day after day. Jesus was never impressed with money. He did not shun the wealthy but neither did He show them special attention. He treated them the same way he treated everyone else.

Don’t misunderstand the text: we are not to despise the rich or the poor. One sin is as bad as the other. Robert Gilmour LeTourneau (November 30, 1888 – June 1, 1969), was born in Richford, Vermont and was a prolific inventor of earthmoving machinery. His machines represented nearly 70 percent of the earthmoving equipment and engineering vehicles used during  WWII, and over the course of his life he secured nearly 300 patents. With the help of his wife, the late Evelyn Peterson (1900-1987), he founded Letourneau University, a private, Chrisitan institution, in Longview, Texas. LeTourneau was widely known as a devoted follower of Jesus Christ and generous philanthropist to Christian causes, including the “LeTourneau Christian Center” camp and conference grounds in Rushville, New York. LeTourneau was often referred to by his contemporaries as “God’s businessman.” In the last years of his life, he lived on the tithe and gave 90% to the Lord’s work. He was a personal friend to the pastor who baptized me {John Crawford} and came to my home church when I was a boy. He spoke in a Sunday morning service.

One of England’s queens testified that she was save by an M…For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble. [I Cor. 1:26]. She said, “God said not many, he didn’t say, not any.”

 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

III. FAVORITISM VIOLATES GOD’S ROYAL LAW

Favoritism may be human but is a violation of God’s royal law which is to “Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.” I can’t make excuses and neither can you, it is wrong to despise others for any reason. Some despise the poor and some the rich but we are to despise neither. We are to treat people the same.

One of my mentors when I was growing up was a highly successful business man. He was very intelligent and he had a gift at making money. His parents were far from wealthy but he amassed a great deal of wealth during in life time. His personality, his demeanor never changed: he began with nothing and became a multi-millionaire but he treated everyone with respect. He had a way of making you feel important.

This is the kind of attitude we are to have toward people: treat them the way we want to be treated, love them like we love ourselves, respect them whether rich or poor.

 

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Luke Five

Luke 5:1-11, NLT

One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”

“Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.

When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. 10 His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.

Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” 11 And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.

INTRODUCTION

I love the stories in the gospel of Luke. Any story involving Jesus is exciting but these stories are not for mere entertainment: each story has a message. Within this story, we discover a lot of principles that the church should be practicing. We live in a lazy culture. People do not work as hard as the use to. We are pampered, spoiled and we want everything the easy way but missions and evangelism demand work, hard work. Today, we are going to talk about things that the modern church works to avoid.

The first thing I want you to notice is that Jesus is not in the synagogue. He is not inside a church building. Some many people have the idea that church takes place in the building but Jesus was at the lake and they had real church. I’m not saying that we should all meet at the lake next week but I am not saying we shouldn’t. There are always more people at the lake than in our buildings. It might not be a bad idea to take Christ to the lake but that would be work and we don’t like work. You might say that PEOPLE ARE MORE IMPORTANT TO JESUS THAN BUILDINGS.

The second thing I want you to notice is that Jesus preached on the banks of the lake and then got in boat and taught the people. Literally, in the Greek, the word for preach or teach is not in the text. Literally the text reads, “the people crowded around Jesus to listen to the word of God.” One thing sure, He was communicating the word of God. Traditionally, we Baptist have had bible study and then worship [preaching]. What if the NLT has it right: what if Jesus preached first and then had bible study? Would we be willing to follow Jesus patter if it went against the grain of our tradition? One thing is certain, COMMUNICATING THE WORD OF GOD IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN TRADITION OR SCHEDULES.

A third thing I want you to notice and this requires no stretch of the imagination. OBEDIENCE PRECEDES WORSHIP. I never heard the term “Worship Wars” until two decades ago but there is no doubt about it, churches are divided over worship styles. It is really nothing new, there were wars to get hymns and hymn books incorporated into worship. But worship style is not the issue; our problem is disobedience. We study the word of God, but we do not put it into practice. Our spirit of obstinacy and disobedience kills are worship. Disobedient people cannot worship Yahweh; they cannot glorify Jesus they can’t get into worship because of their disposition. This problem of disobedience has lead to narcissistic worship. We are not worshipping God, we are worshiping ourselves and using God’s name as a cover for our self-will.

Two things I want you to notice: [1] Jesus outrageous command and [2] Peter reluctant obedience. Peter was a fisherman by trade: Jesus was a carpenter from Nazareth. There is no place to fish around Nazareth. Peter has been on the lake all his life. The command makes no sense to Peter who is confident that he knows more about catching fish than a carpenter. But, Peter does exactly what Jesus says even though he doesn’t understand why He said it. It is after Peter obedience to Jesus command that he falls to his knees and cries out, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.”  If Peter had not obeyed, there would have been to awe and worship. Peter saw the deity of Christ and at the same time saw his wretched depravity. Peter fell to his knees without a worship leader telling him what to do. His worship was real: He knew he was in the presence of God. We have great services and I enjoy them but do we worship? Do we sense the presence of God they way Peter did? Do we fall to our knees and cry for mercy?

There is something else I want you to notice: FOLLOWING PRECEDES DISCIPLESHIP. There are no self-willed disciples. A disciple lives for his master. He has no will. His master’s will is his will. A disciple lives to serve. In the body of Christ you cannot lead until you learn to follow. Look at the text,  “they left everything and followed Jesus.” Discipleship demands absolute surrender.

One more thing: Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” Would you say that Jesus was talking about EVANGELISM? Here is the problem we are facing: we are too lazy and to indifferent to fish. Fishing for men is hard work: first there is TRAINING, rigorous training. Then there is the incredible PATIENCE it takes of fish because some days they are not biting. Then there is the DICIPLINE: You have to fish when you had rather be doing something else. Which had you rather do, go out to eat or go to the gym and work out? It takes a fourth thing: PASSION. You have to fish until you love to fish whether they are biting or not. Evangelist Junior Hill use to take his mother to the creek and leave her for the day. She would sit on a 5 gallon bucket and fish all day long. Junior said, “It didn’t matter if mama caught fish or not, she always wanted to go back because she love fishing more than catching fish. Catching fish was a bonus but she was going whether or not she caught fish.”

What if every true believer in the congregation got one person on their heart and began praying for that person’s salvation and made themselves available to share their faith? Do you think it would change our church? In a sense, there is no problem that Evangelism will not cure.

Max Lucado tells the story of two men taking their sons on a fishing expedition. When they reached the mountain lake and set up camp, it was time to go to bed. When they woke up the next morning, it was raining so they stayed in the tent and played cards hoping for a better tomorrow but it rained the second day also and the cards got boring and the gear was getting wet. Everyone was getting ill with each other; the boys started fighting and the dads followed suit so they loaded up and went home. The moral of the story is WHEN FISHERMEN DON ‘T FISH, THEY FIGHT.

The Danger of Religion

SCRIPTURE

James 1:19-27

19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. 21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.

22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. 27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

Verse 26-27 in NASB

If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

INTRODUCTION

It is my conviction that there are far more religious people in the United States than there are believers in Jesus Christ. The devil is the author of religion and a lot of people are self-deceived about their salvation. They believe they are going to heaven because they acknowledge God’s blessing or they belong to some religious organization. I am very afraid there are going to be a lot of surprises on judgment day.

Jesus said in Matthew 7…“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

I have never done a miracle. I have never cast out a demon and I have never prophesied the future yet I believe I am going to heaven because I know Jesus. Note what Jesus says to these people: you may have done all these religious things but you have no relationship with me because I don’t know you.

I. IF YOU HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS: YOU WILL LOVE AND RECIEVE HIS WORD

“humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts”

Jesus told a story about hearing and receiving the word. It is in Matthew 13 and called the parable of the “Sower.” Really the story is not about the sower, nor the seed but about the receptivity of the soil. There were four kinds of soil [1] Hard beaten path that had no receptivity. [2] There was the stony ground that had no depth for receptivity. [3] Then there was the weed infested ground that had no room for receptivity. [4] Finally, there was the fallow ground that had great receptivity.

Zechariah’s Commentary

11 But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears from hearing. 12 They made their hearts like flint so that they could not hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets; therefore great wrath came from the Lord of hosts.

Jesus Teachings on Listening

“Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more. 25 To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.” [Mark 4:24-25]

“So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.” [Luke 8:18]

What about your receptivity to the word of God? It is high or low? Is your heart hard or fallow? There can be no spiritual transformation unless we ingest the word of God.

II. IF YOU HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS: YOU WILL OBEY HIS WORD

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

Thousand feast on bible studies and sermons but they are listeners only. They never apply the concepts they study; they never put them into practice. My sweet and favorite daughter in law ask me to come hand a ceiling fan and light fixture. I’ve done this kind of thing many times but it has been a few years and the technology has changed. When I opened the box, I could not find what I was looking for so I did begin to look at the pictures on the instructions. She came in and so me struggling and she began reading the instructions. I was getting frustrated because no matter how I wired it, no power was getting to the fan [it seemed]. Finally, I came down off the ladder and ask her, “Where are you getting all this information?” Then she showed me a small paragraph beside the diagram. I said, “Give that to me and I went by it step by step and in minutes we had power to the fan and lights.”

Let me ask you something: what if I had just opened the box, read the instructions, sat on the couch and talked for an hour about hanging ceiling fans and then got in my truck and left without hanging the fan. The purpose of my trip was to hang the fan: this is what Lori expected. She would have been very disappointed if all I had done was read the instructions and say, “Now, I know how to do it,” and then left without doing it.

We hear a good sermon and we hear the challenge but we don’t do anything. We make talk about the concept but we don’t make application. A person who hears but does not apply is like a person who eats and does not exercise. Eating without exercise will enlarge the stomach, studying without applying will enlarge the head. Vance Havner said, “The worse thing that can happen to a new convert is to run into one of these bible study buffs. They have all the answers and can tell you about it but they have no practical experience because they never apply what they have learned. Knowledge without practical application equals pride.

Hearing the word without repentance and a change of mind is like a man who glances into a mirror and then walks away and forgets what he saw. The purpose of the mirror is to reveal the flaw and then you take time to fix it. I don’t come into the office on Friday but I do visit. Last Friday, I was outside working in the garden and I got hot and tired so I came in, took a shower and laid down for a few minutes. When I got up and dressed, I did not think to look in the mirror and because I had laid down with a wet head, I had a bad cowlick. I bounced into DGH and I always have to stop at the rest room and it has a huge mirror and there I saw my disheveled hair. It is easy to correct the problem but it requires another shower.

Some people never see anything wrong with themselves. There are like Fonzie on Happy Days. Job was the best man of his time, perhaps the best of all time and yet he said, “I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.” How is that Job needed to repent and we don’t. The word of God should evoke continual repentance in the heart of every believer.

Baptist are substituting hearing for doing. What good is a committee if it never does anything? What good is church training if we never do anything? What good is bible study if we never apply the lesson to our life? Baptist have substituted hearing, talking, singing and congregating with real church. Real church is doing. Every denomination has substituted ceremony, tradition and ritual for true worship and humble service.

III. IF YOU HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS: YOU HAVE A DESIRE TO SHARE THE WORD

If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

I would not advice proclaiming the word until I got familiar with the word but God never intended for us to keep the good news to our self. James uses the term “Pure Religion” but I would refer to it as “True Faith.” True faith reveals itself in four ways:

  1. True Faith is revealed in our SURRENDER [S word for obedience]. It is not hearing or knowing the will of God that reveals who we are, it is doing the will of God. It is practicing our faith.
  2. True Faith is revealed in our SPEECH. A lot of folks know the language of Zion but outside the walls of the church, they speak another language. The fastest way to destroy your testimony is by using profanity and vulgarity.
  3. True Faith is revealed in SERVICE [visiting]. I knew a young pastor who went to a deacon run church that was famous for starving their pastor for two years and then running them off. He realize right out of the shut that the deacons wanted to meet on the first Monday and talk for three hours but they didn’t do anything else. They were making ministry decisions and none of them were involved in ministry so for the next Deacon’s meeting, he planned a visitation. What deacon would not be willing to visit: in his case, there was a room full. He lasted only 18 months and when he left, those pouting deacons were accusing him of being too evangelistic. I will tell you what the real problem was: they had no intention of visiting and they were not going to be told what to do by him.
  4. True Faith is revealed in our SEPARATION from the world. Someone said, “We are to shape the world, not allow the world to shape us.” We are in a cultural war as I speak. The left is saying, “You Christians are going to have to get with the program, our program and celebrate diversity. You cannot condemn homosexuality and you must accept gay marriage.” I refuse to accept it, that makes me different from the world. Why can’t they celebrate my diversity? I will tell you why, they are hypocrites. They are forcing Alabama to be like New York but we are the United States not the identical states. Why can’t Alabama be diverse, or different? We don’t think like Yankee’s and we don’t want to be like New Yorker’s. There is nothing wrong with a Yankee other than their misguided ways but we prefer to be different. Why can’t they celebrate our diversity? Because it is not about diversity [Wal-mart, Target, Starbucks, NFL and all you sissy compromisers], it is about destroying the bible as our moral platform. Do you want to be like the Carters, Clinton’s or the Obama’s? Of course not, you want to be you and there is no one else like you. Sounds diverse to me. Diversity is a code word for liberals that means “Compromise your faith and deny the authority of the word of God.” I didn’t write Romans chapter one but I will continue to go by it.