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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