Scripture Reading: James 2:1-13 “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 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. 3 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,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
5 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? 6 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? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 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.
12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
In our opening reading today we read how James warned Christians not to show favoritism to certain people just because they are rich. I would dare to say that he was teaching that we should not show favoritism for any reason; especially in church
He writes that if we do so we discriminate and become an evil judge. He illustrates the point by telling how someone who is wealthy is given a place of honor at church whereas a poor individual is told stand or sit on the floor.
He concludes by telling his Christian readers that showing favoritism is a sin. Instead we should keep the royal law, the divine law of loving our neighbor as our self.
How many feel like you have been unfairly judges by others or even discriminated against for one reason or another in the past? We probably all have at one time in our life for one reason or another. It’s not a good feeling is it?
In a earlier lesson I talked about what Jesus did to make a living. Scripture tells us that He was a carpenter, and the son of a carpenter. In that lesson I shared with you the fact that the original Greek word translated carpenter more accurately described someone who simply worked with their hands. Basically Joseph and Jesus, and probably Joseph’s other sons did what ever their hands could find to do to make a living; whether it was piling rocks, digging a ditch, building something or doing any other kind of labor as long as they got paid for it. Unlike a handyman today those who did this kind of work were paid little and they were considered on a lower social level than a slave.
Do you think James, his brothers, or even his family ever felt like they were looked down upon or discriminated against? I think so… I think they all did including Jesus.
But I think most people would have looked at them a little different if more knew who Mary and Joseph were, the ones God Himself chose to raise His one and only Son. And how would they have treated the family if they knew and believe that Jesus was the Son of God, the Word that became flesh, the Creator, the Sustainer, the King of kings, the Lord of Lords, Yahweh in the flesh.. their Messiah? They probably would have put them up in a palace.
But they did not know. They were looked at like any other peasants in Israel. Maybe just like people may have looked down on you and me.
This past week I heard someone say we don’t have a right to judge anyone because we don’t usually have enough information to make a good judgment. And I think in most cases that this is true.
ILLUS. 1: A number of years back, a young and very successful executive was travelling down a suburban street in his brand new black jaguar. Suddenly a brick was thrown from the sidewalk, thumping into the side of the car. Brakes slammed! Gears ground into reverse, and tires madly spun the Jaguar back to the spot from where the brick had been thrown. The driver jumped out, grabbed the kid who had thrown the brick and pushed him up against a parked car. “What was that all about?!” he screamed. “This is my new Jag, that brick you threw is gonna cost you a lot of money!”
“Please, mister, please …. I’m sorry! I didn’t know what else to do!” the boy pleaded. “I threw the brick because no one else would stop!” Tears were dripping down to the boy’s chin as he pointed around the parked car. “It’s my brother, mister,” he said. “He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him up.” Sobbing, the boy asked the executive, “Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He’s hurt and he’s too heavy for me.”
The mood was transformed in a moment as the young executive realized what had occurred. He lifted the young man into the wheelchair and took out his handkerchief and wiped the scrapes and cuts. He then watched as the younger brother pushed him down the sidewalk toward their home.
Unfortunately, that story is all too common. Without knowing all the facts, we jump to conclusions and make judgments about people all the time.
ILLUS. 2: A supermarket check-out lady once wrote to an advice-columnist to complain that she had seen people buy “luxury” food items—like expensive birthday cakes and bags of Shrimp—with their food stamps. The writer went on to say that she thought all those people on welfare who treated themselves to such non-necessities were “lazy and wasteful.”
A few weeks later the columnist devoted an entire column to people who had responded to this check-out lady’s comment. One woman wrote: “I didn’t buy a cake, but I did buy a big bag of shrimp with food stamps. So what? My husband had been working at a plant for fifteen years when it shut down. The shrimp casserole I made was for our wedding anniversary dinner and lasted us three days. Perhaps the supermarket attendant who criticized that woman would have a different view of life after walking a mile in my shoes.”
Another woman wrote: “I’m the woman who bought the $17 cake and paid for it with food stamps. I thought the check-out woman in the store would burn a hole through me with her eyes.
What she didn’t know is the cake was for my little girl’s birthday. It will be her last. She has bone cancer and will probably be gone within six to eight months.”
There is no way any of us can know exactly why someone is doing what they are doing. We can save ourselves – and other people – a lot of grief by stop trying to figure out another’s hidden motives for certain behavior.
It’s really sad when we as Christians jump to conclusions, make quick judgments, or even discriminate against those we come in contact with.
Illus 3. In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi wrote that during his student days he read the Gospels seriously and considered converting to Christianity. He believed that in the teachings of Jesus he could find the solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India. So one Sunday he decided to attend services at a nearby church and talk to the minister about becoming a Christian. However, when he entered the sanctuary the usher refused to give him a seat and suggested that he should worship with his own people. Gandhi left the church and never returned, He wrote, “If Christians have caste differences also, “ he said, “I might as well remain a Hindu.” That usher’s prejudice not only betrayed Jesus but also turned a person away from trusting Him as Savior.
Illus 4. I recently heard a story about a man who was the interim pastor of a church. He hadn’t been at the church for long, so the people didn’t know him very well yet. One Sunday morning before church, he didn’t shave or shower or brush his teeth. He dug through the rag bin and found the worst clothes he could find. They were dirty and stained and worn and smelled like they had been in the rag bin for a while. Then he went to the store and bought a bottle of beer and borrowed a shopping cart. He filled the cart with cardboard, aluminum cans and other junk. And then he poured the beer over his clothes. Then about 5 minutes before service started, he slowly pushed his cart up to the front door of the church. He dug around in it for a minute, then proceeded to walk in the church and sit down quietly on the back row. He said you could’ve heard a pin drop. Of course, nobody recognized who it was. The only thing they saw was a bum sitting on the back row. And the smell! It was awful. Finally, one of the ushers got up and told the man he would have to leave. So he did. He got up, walked out the front door, around the side of the building and into his private office door.
When it was time to preach, he walked out of his office, into the sanctuary and took his place behind the pulpit. There, still dressed in the clothes of a homeless man, he preached on this passage here in James. What an illustration of how we treat people! Do you think they got it?
Why do even good church people make such quick judgments and act like this sometimes?
Maybe it’s towards someone who has a different color skin, or a person who talks a different language, maybe it’s because of how they dress or how they smell, or maybe the person is really big or obese, or covered with blemishes, scars, body piercings, or tattoos. Maybe they have purple hair, or they’re an x-con, or even handicapped in some way…. And we shy away from them… we are uncomfortable around them… maybe even ignore them like they are some kind of leper.
What is James telling us here? That if as Christians you act this way, if you discriminate because someone is different, ‘Shame on you!’
Why do we act like this sometimes? Different reasons:
– Sometime out of fear. Maybe you never met anyone like that. Maybe you heard from others about people who look or act like this.
– Sometimes our judgments and discrimination are very self motivated or selfish. We treat certain people better than others because we hope that treating certain people better will make us look good, put us in a higher standing with them and benefit us later.
– And some people are simply critical of anyone who isn’t quite like they are. These people set themselves up as the standard.
And to all this I believe James is implying, ‘Shame on you if you do this, especially if you are a Christian.’
James even goes on to give us a warning if we choose to discriminate. In verse 13 he writes, “ judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.”
The Easy To Read Version puts it this way, “Yes, you must show mercy to others. If you do not show mercy, then God will not show mercy to you when he judges you. But the one who shows mercy can stand without fear before the Judge.”
James’ step brother, Jesus, put it this way in Luke 6:37-38 “37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Conclusion: So my advice to you today is….
Don’t judge and discriminate using yourself as the standard for all that is good. That’s egotistical!
Don’t discriminate thinking that treating someone special will get you ahead, more, or something special, that’s being selfish.
And if you are afraid of someone because they are different pray that God the Spirit will help you to love them. The apostle John wrote: “18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” 1 John 1:18
You can choose to fear someone, or you can choose to ‘agape’ love them, that is seek their highest good much in the same way that Christ Himself was willing to die for those who wanted to kill Him. In the end, Love and mercy so much better than judging, and at the end of the day you’ll sleep better and feel more at peace.