The Sin of Partiality
Read James 2:1-13
We are continuing our study in the Book of James today. And because we have broken up our study with the celebration of Christmas and my absence the past couple of weeks, it might be good for us to take a couple of minutes to review where we are.
We have to remind ourselves that this is a letter that was written by James to the Jewish believers, as they were the primary group of believers at the time of the writing.
This letter was to guide, correct, and rebuke believers in their Christian walk. It was a practical guide to Christianity, if you will. All of this is a measure of spiritual maturity, too. How a Christian handles trials and temptations, watching what we do and says, and how to worship. We discussed justice and fairness and not being double minded. And today we come to this passage, which talks about not showing partiality. So, there is a flow in what James is expressing, and not just a bunch of random thoughts.
As we begin to look at today’s passage, James conveys a command to them and to us in verse 8. It’s more than a command, in fact, he calls it a royal law. This law is that we, as Christians, are to love others as we love ourselves, not showing any partiality. As we look at this command this morning, I want us to answer three questions:
1. Why is the fair and just treatment of others necessary by Christians?
2. How do we keep from showing partiality in how we treat others?
3. What are the consequences of a Christian showing partiality?
Let’s dive into this and begin by answering the first question, why is the fair and just treatment of others necessary by Christians.
When we finished chapter 1, James was telling us about religion, or worship, and how we should be taking care of widow and orphans as a priority in this. He opens this next paragraph with a continuing thought as it pertains to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. That thought is that we don’t hold an attitude of personal favoritism with our faith. Faith is about the heart. It is about the priorities in our life. It is about that which is in our hearts must be demonstrated by our actions. If we are who we say we are, our actions will demonstrate it.
He then gives us an illustration of what he means.
In walks a man wearing a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes. In the scripture, it says he has on bright clothes. This guy is a rock star, or if your a golfer, it might be John Daly. Isn’t it interesting that people like this can wear the get ups they have and not get made fun of? Sorry, I digress. Anyway, this is a man of wealth, and probably notoriety. And look at how he is treated. Oh, please, sit here in the good place. It is a place of honor. The best seat in the house.
Then in walks a poor man. It says he had on dirty clothes, which probably meant he had a little odor about him. And how is he treated? “Stand over there, or sit on the ground next to my footstool.” Does this sound right? No! How should this have been done? Without favoritism. They should have both been treated the same and that is with love.
Go back to verse 1 and look at how he starts this passage. “do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.” Christ did not play favorites. He loved everyone equally. Just like your children, you love them all the same. Oh, there may be some that don’t think that since they get more whippings that the others, but that’s not because you don’t love them. It’s because they are the one who’s in trouble more.
Partiality is a sin. Having an attitude of sin while claiming to have faith in Jesus is mutually exclusive. You can’t have both.
God does not show favoritism to man. In Romans 2:11, Paul says “For there is no partiality with God.” Why? Because we have all sinned.
But what about the poor? He says right here in verse 5, “did God not choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” Isn’t that favoritism?
Who is poor? As we looked at statistics a few weeks ago, we saw that we are some of the richest in the world. In fact, we are in the top 3% of the world’s wealthiest. The average median income in the world is $850, or about $16 per week. That’s poor, and that’s average. That is the majority of the people in the world today. So does that mean that the majority of the world is going to be saved by God, being chosen by Him to be rich in their faith?
What it means is that those who are poor must rely on God if they are to survive, to be fed daily. There is a propensity by them to look to God more so than those who are rich. But noticed that there is a qualifier to the statement. They, like everyone else, are heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him. If you love Him, you are an heir. If you don’t you are not an heir. Just being poor doesn’t mean you have salvation.
We are to follow the royal law, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” The term royal signifies that it is from the king. It is a decree that must be obeyed.
We think of this as words of Jesus as He answers the Pharisees in Matthew 22:34-39 “But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
This wasn’t something that Jesus was saying as a just a summary of the laws, but was quoting Leviticus 19:18 “You shall not take vengeance, nor hold any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.” This was part of the Law that God gave to the Israelites.
Jesus was tested again by a lawyer in Luke 10:25-37. “And behold, a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” And he answered, “you shall love the lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” But wanting to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he encountered robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by coincidence a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan who was on a journey came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you.’ Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” And he said, “The one who showed compassion to him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”
While the example James gave was one of a rich man and a poor man, we see that it isn’t just about economic status. It doesn’t matter what a person’s economic status is. It’s not about that, or the their nationality, or about their ethnicity, or their gender, or their you fill in the blank. We treat everyone the same. We show them the love that Christ shows to us every single day. That is how they see the love of Christ.
Our second question is how do we keep from showing partiality in how we treat others? Actually, you already know it. It’s a slight variation of this in what we call the Golden Rule, Luke 6:31 “Treat people the same way you want them to treat you.” James says that when we do this, you are doing well.
Do we do this, or give it lip service? Whom do you shun? Is there a particular person, or group that you wouldn’t help? Think about it. We talk about it when we aren’t within these four walls. How about those who are LGBTQ? How about those who are drug addicts? How about those in prison? How about the person who lives across the street from you? I mean, come on, how do love someone who is that obnoxious?
If you saw someone ready to step off the curb and onto the street where there is an oncoming semi, would you grab them and pull them to safety, or would you first say, “Hey, are you gay?” and wait for their answer? Our reaction is to pull them to safety and not ask questions. Our reaction to love them should be the same.
Don’t misunderstand, thinking that by doing this we are condoning the sin. We are not. For years we have used the quaint little phrase that we love the sinner and hate the sin , but do we really? Do we hate the sinner because of the sin?
Jesus gave us an example of this to follow. Look at John 8.1-11. “But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. And early in the morning He came again into the temple area, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began teaching them. Now the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in the act of adultery, and after placing her in the center of the courtyard, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” Now they were saying this to test Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. When they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Now when they heard this, they began leaving, one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman where she was, in the center of the courtyard. And straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on do not sin any longer.”
Do you sin? I do. And yet, because of the blood of Christ, because I have believed in Him and follow Him, He has extended His love and mercy to me.
We must stop labeling people with their sin and love them. Through our witness, maybe, just maybe, they will see who Christ is and turn from their sin and accept Him. We will never save a single person. Only He can do that. Our job is to love.
That brings us to our last question; What are the consequences of a Christian showing partiality?
Look at what James says at the end of this passage in James 2.9-13. “But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the Law as violators. For whoever keeps the whole Law, yet stumbles in one point, has become guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do murder, you have become a violator of the Law. So speak, and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of freedom. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”
How bad are adultery and murder? At the time of this writing, it would have been a crime punishable by death. We want to put sin on a continuum from not so bad to horrible. What James says here, thought is that if you stumble over one law, you are a violator of the Law. Sin is sin in God’s eyes.
When we judge others, we, too, will be judged. Jesus was very clear about this. In Matthew 7:1 He says, “Do not judge, so that you will not be judged.” And in Luke 6:37, He states it a little differently. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.”
By showing partiality, we judge others. Good or bad, it is judging. Why? Because we do not love.
Is it any wonder Christianity has a bad reputation today? Many are so tied to a political agenda that we have trouble distinguishing ourselves as a Christian rather than a member of a political party. Others are so vocal against a one particular group or another that our voice sounds more of hate than love.
Again, do not mistake acceptance of a person for the acceptance of a sin. We must speak up, calling a sin a sin. Jesus was very bold in this, as we should be, too. The world loves sin. In fact, sin is celebrated and encouraged. That is all part of Satan’s plan. We buy in to it and become rebels. But, if we confess our sins and repent, God forgives us.
Recently, I’ve been doing some study on conversion, that is the act of repentance and our turning our lives around for God. A number of you have told me how much you appreciate the invitation to come to Christ that I do at the end of my sermons. However, no one comes forward. Why is that?
We need to think this thing through a little more. If you go back to the Great Commission, you will see Jesus say to the disciples, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Look at the order of this. It is go, make disciples, baptize, and teach. Our going is living the word and telling others. Disciples are followers of Christ. That means they understand what they must do, and part of that is changing their lives. Once they understand this, and commit to it, then they are baptized. If we are bringing in people who have heard the word of God and they say, that sounds pretty good, I think I’ll be one of them, that ‘s not what this is about. They must change. We should baptize those who convert, meaning repent and change. Sure, we are always working to be more like Christ, but we are committed to it. If we bring people in and baptize them without being converted, they just get wet.
What we have talked about today, that’s part of conversion. Loving instead of judging. Living for Christ instead of living for ourselves. Treating others as you want to be treated.
Have you begun that conversion process. Are you a disciple, a follower of Christ, but haven’t been baptized? Is it time to take that next step? Come talk to me. If you want to know more about becoming a follower of Jesus, come talk to me.