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James #3- The Sin of Partiality

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Thesis: To note that Christians are to love all peoples.


(1)    Have you ever made premature judgments about people?  Ever been wrong?

(2)    Consider this: In 1865, the Chicago Times wrote this about Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: “The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat, and dish-watery utterances of a man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as President of the United States.”

(3)    There was a problem with favoritism/prejudice in the 1st century church and there still is even today in the 21st century

(4)    Let us note what James has to say about this problem:


I.                   The Situation (vv. 1-7):

A.    Being a Christian and being partial is being inconsistent (vv. 1-3).

1.      Partiality is inconsistent with the nature of Jesus, which Christians are to emulate.

a.       His love was extended to everyone (cf. Matt. 11:28-30; John 3:16).

b.      Even His enemies admitted, “You aren’t swayed by men, because You pay no attention to who they are” (Matt. 22:16, niv).

2.      Partiality is often based on outward appearances, which never truly defines a person.

a.       “Partiality” means literally: “receiving the face” (Moo 102).

b.      “An attitude of personal favoritism translates the single Greek word prosōpolēmpsia, which has the literal meaning of lifting up someone’s face, with the idea of judging by appearance and on that basis giving special favor and respect” (MacArthur).

c.       A good working definition of partiality is: “making a judgment concerning someone on a superficial basis and then acting toward that person as though that judgment were valid” (Roper 39).

3.      James is saying: “Don’t try to be a Christian and a hypocrite at the same time” (Woods 105).

B.     The reason that this is inconsistent (vv. 4-7):

1.      One making such judgments is making evil judgments (v. 4).

a.       Jesus said: “Stop judging by mere appearances […]” (John 7.24, NIV).

b.      God does not show partiality (Acts 10.34-35); therefore, neither should we.

2.      If partiality were to be shown, then it is being shown to the wrong one (vv. 5-7).

a.       The church was comprised primarily of the poor.

(1)     1 Cor. 1:26 – “not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble”

(2)   Remember Israel, the fewest of all peoples (Dt. 7:7-8)

b.      The rich were mistreating the church.

(1)    They were oppressing the church.

(2)    They were blaspheming the name of Jesus.

II.                The Solution (vv. 8-13):

A.    Fulfill the “royal law” (v. 8)

1.      “Royal” because:

(a)    It belongs to a king (Moo 111).

(b)    It is the supreme law to which all other laws governing human relationships are subordinate. It is the summation of all such laws (Burdick 179).

2.      The law is to love your neighbor as yourself (cf. Lev. 19.18; Matt. 7.12).

3.      To love is to be of God, not to love is not to know God (cf. 1 John 4:7-8, 11).

B.     Recognize the severity of showing favoritism (vv. 9-11)

1.      Consider:

a.       Prov. 28:21 – To show partiality is not good

b.      Lev. 19:15 – Showing partiality = perverting justice

c.       Mal. 2:9 – Punished by God because of partiality

d.      Prov. 22:2 – “Rich & poor have this in common: The Lord is Maker of them all”

2.      To be partial is to sin (v. 9).

3.      It is as serious as any other sin (vv. 10-11).

a.       Apparently, “Some of the Jews had been prone to regard the law of God as a series of isolated injunctions. To keep one was to gain credit and to break one was to incur debt. Thus a man could add and subtract until he arrived at a reasonable credit for himself” (Shelly 31).

b.      However, “To break any of His commands is to defy His will and His authority, which is the basis of all sin. God’s law is unified; it all hangs together and is inseparable. It is like hitting a window with a hammer. You may hit it only once, and that rather lightly, but the whole window is shattered. In the same way, some sins are relatively light and some are extremely vile. But breaking even ‘one of the least of these commandments’ (Matt. 5:19) shatters the unity of God’s holy law and turns the guilty person into a transgressor” (MacArthur).

c.       The point is: Sin is still sin and always wrong regardless to what good you are doing in other areas!

C.     We will be judged by our mercy or lack thereof (vv. 12-13).

1.      Everyone of us will need God’s mercy; therefore, we must extend mercy.

2.      Story: “Behind the line in World War I, rest homes were operated which were designed to serve as places of fellowship for all soldiers – whether officers or enlisted men. Over the entrance of such houses were posted these words ‘Abandon all rank, ye who enter here.’ So must it be in the church” (Shelly 25).

3.      Listen to the lyrics of “If We Are The Body” by Casting Crowns:

It's crowded in worship today
As she slips in
Trying to fade into the faces
The girls' teasing laughter is carrying farther than they know,

Farther than they know

But if we are the Body
Why aren't His arms reaching
Why aren't His hands healing
Why aren't His words teaching
And if we are the Body
Why aren't His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way
There is a way

A traveler is far away from home
He sheds his coat
And quietly sinks into the back row
The weight of their judgmental glances tells him that his chances
Are better out on the road

But if we are the Body
Why aren't His arms reaching
Why aren't His hands healing
Why aren't His words teaching
And if we are the Body
Why aren't His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way

Jesus paid much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come
And we are the Body of Christ

If we are the body
Why aren't His arms reaching
Why aren't His hands healing
Why aren't His words teaching
And if we are the body
Why aren't His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way
Jesus is the way



(1)    Christians cannot be prejudice.

(2)    The Lord is not prejudice and He loves you today regardless of anything … will you love Him back and then love others as He loves them?

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