Faithlife Sermons

The Failure of Favoritism

James: Take it in and Live it out  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Introduction

A little bit of preference can go a long ways. Think about some of your preferences this morning. What is something that you prefer over something else?
Reeses over any other chocolate candy
Thanksgiving option: Chicken over turkey
Sports: Football over Futbol
We all have preferences and those things can be good things - it’s natural to prefer something over something else and to have likes and dislikes. The problem when it comes to God’s Word is that there are times where we allow our preferences to bring about division and that causes problems. What are some things that should cause division from a Christian standpoint?
God’s Word being true / our authority
Gospel
Jesus being the only way to be saved
What are some things that shouldn’t cause division from a Christian standpoint?
Bible translation preference
Music preference
Color in sanctuary preference
There are tier 1 issues and there are tier 2 and 3 issues. James does a great job in this letter of highlighting the importance of tier 1 issues and not allowing other things to cause unnecessary problems within the body of Christ. This morning we’ll be looking at one of these tier 3 issues - the issue of favoritism or partiality and the complications it can bring to Christians. Before we dive into the first part of our passage - I want us to think about our own preferences whether they be big or small. Page 35 shares with us that our principles and values must be driven by a Christian worldview rather than a secular worldview. What is an acceptable “sin” in the eyes of our world when it comes to favoritism?
We prefer the people that think and act the same way that we do and we align ourselves with them at the neglect of people of opposing sides. We’ll help people that look like us but not those who do not.
James will help us see the danger of these “acceptable” actions
Could someone start us off by reading James 2:1-4?
James 2:1–4 CSB
1 My brothers and sisters, do not show favoritism as you hold on to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. 2 For if someone comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and a poor person dressed in filthy clothes also comes in, 3 if you look with favor on the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here in a good place,” and yet you say to the poor person, “Stand over there,” or “Sit here on the floor by my footstool,” 4 haven’t you made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Again, the issue here is that of favoritism and caring more about a rich person than a poor one.
It’s important for us to remember that this is a hypothetical situation made up by James here and that’s important for a couple of reasons.
If this were a real situation, we might miss the overall application
If this were a real situation, we might think that this only applies in the church or with wealth
Meaning: This might be a hypothetical situation but it’s not a hypothetical problem. There is no room for favoritism in the Church!
Why would there be a reason, you think, for these Christians to behave this way?
Human Nature in some respects!
We desire what other have and if someone has nice things we might be nicer to them because we think that if we are then maybe we’ll have nice things or they will be nice to us and they have the ability to gift us nice things! Human nature hasn’t changed much since James’ day!
If you look at the majority of Christians in this day and age (early/mid 40s AD), most of them were poor. There could have been a temptation to see a rich person and to fall victim to favoritism because there is a human temptation to place our faith in wealth or possessions rather than God and His power! The rich person would have stood out more in the early church than the extremely poor person - this might be flipped in the modern American church, but the principle still applies, we cannot show favoritism or partiality based on material things.
2 Corinthians 8:9 tells us this
2 Corinthians 8:9 CSB
9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: Though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.
This is what Jesus has done for us! He was rich and for our sake He experienced sickness and suffering so that we could inherit His righteousness and riches. Whenever we show partiality towards wealthy people, we demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the Gospel because we put our trust in something other than the glory of our God. Jesus was rich and became poor, so many come to Jesus poor and expect to leave Him rich - and spiritually speaking this is true, but this isn’t a guarantee from an economic standpoint. We can’t show favoritism to wealthy people but the opposite is also true.
According to James 2:1, should we show favoritism to wealthy or poor people?
No! The solution is no favoritism.
We often fall into either extreme camp as we’ll show favoritism to the rich because that makes us feel powerful or we’ll show favoritism to the poor because that makes us feel good. The Biblical solution is whenever someone comes to you with a need, you help them regardless of their status because helping others is Biblical! There have to be some stipulations, sure. We can’t help everyone equally and universally that comes to the church office asking for assistance or else we’d run out of our yearly $ in a month or two.
James is wanting to shift the attitude we have when it comes to helping others. We don’t make distinctions or only help when it makes sense to - we help and put others first because it’s the right thing to do.
One of the texts our study guide brings up is Ephesians 4:1-3. Could someone read that passage for us?
Ephesians 4:1–3 CSB
1 Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Paul makes the point that there is to be unity within the church. We’re called by God to be members of a body and to be on the same team.
Poor and rich, somebodies and nobodies, we’re to be united in the body of Christ - as a result there can’t be partiality or favoritism! Whenever we say that someone matters just because of their name, status, or possessions, not only are we wrong but we’re in sin. We become judges with evil thoughts. How is favoritism incompatible with the Gospel?
We dis-unify what Christ has united!
The Gospel is good news for all people - regardless of background, not just for rich or powerful people or for poor and outcast people. It’s good news for the businessman and the beggar.
James demonstrates this in the verses that follow.
James 2:5–7 CSB
5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Didn’t God choose the poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? 6 Yet you have dishonored the poor. Don’t the rich oppress you and drag you into court? 7 Don’t they blaspheme the good name that was invoked over you?
Why do we have a temptation as humans in good times to trust in ourselves rather than God?
We think that we have more power than we really do and we forget that God is the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17).
Whenever we get to rock bottom, that’s when we look up!
Again, is James’ point to fight against those with money or wealth? Is he saying that it is better to be poor than rich? No!
Let’s think through this - who are the heirs of God’s Kingdom?
Not just those who are wealthy or poor! Those who have faith in Christ as Lord and Savior. Who are these people? People of various economic backgrounds. Historically, more poor than wealthy, but there have been wealthy Christians as well! James isn’t arguing against wealth - he is arguing about the view of wealth. So often we idolize wealth but God doesn’t. God gives it generously!
Why do you think God has historically chosen poor and weak people to be a part of His Kingdom?
This doesn’t make much sense to our human brains… but God does this for a reason: To demonstrate His greatness and power and plan.
1 Corinthians 1:26–27 CSB
26 Brothers and sisters, consider your calling: Not many were wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. 27 Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong.
If you look at the global church, do you think that more people fit into the “poor” category or “rich”?
Hands down, poor! In fact, if you look at the church that is growing the fastest today, it is in places where Christians are generally poor. This isn’t to say that wealthy people can’t be Christians, but it does highlight something about the human heart. We saw this in Guatemala this past summer. Many of these families lived on 35k Guatemalan dollars / year which translates to about 5k US dollars… That’s insane to even think about. You might think that these people are depressed and mad about everything but the reality is the opposite. We encountered so many happy families. We encountered many people who were strong Christians and they talked about how God literally provided for their every need because they don’t have the resources to trust in themselves or their bank account.
We all need to remember our desperate need for Christ and this requires us to not trust in ourselves or show favoritism toward people who might have or not have certain things
James 2:8–13 CSB
8 Indeed, if you fulfill the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well. 9 If, however, you show favoritism, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the entire law, and yet stumbles at one point, is guilty of breaking it all. 11 For he who said, Do not commit adultery, also said, Do not murder. So if you do not commit adultery, but you murder, you are a lawbreaker. 12 Speak and act as those who are to be judged by the law of freedom. 13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has not shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
What is the hardest part of the Great Commandment?
Our own sinfulness making it impossible to love the way Christ does.
Who is the supreme example of loving others as we love ourselves?
Jesus Christ!
Verses 10-11 tell us that if you break one command, you are guilty of breaking all of it. How is this fair? Is this even Biblical?
Yes! See Romans 5:12-21.
If you disobey God’s law you are a lawbreaker. If you partly obey, you disobey. If you tell a lie, you’re a liar. If you steal, you are a thief. If you sin, you are a sinner. We like to soften our words and say that we messed up or made a mistake - and this is true - but God’s Word is straightforward. We’re sinners! We’ve broken God’s law. We deserve punishment… Yet God gives us mercy!
Likewise, we are to give this divine mercy to other people as well!
How can you and I do a better job of demonstrating God’s mercy to others this week?
Starts with our heart and the mercy that we’ve first received from God and dispensing that to others freely as Jesus has already done for us.
Praying for others and forgiving those who have wronged us
Live out Sermon on the Mount - specifically chapter 5
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