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Treating Everybody Like Somebody

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Treating Everybody Like Somebody

James 2:1-9

According to Christian author John Ortberg, it is our fallenness that makes us want to be a part of not just any group, but an exclusive group.

Every society includes people who connect, who belong to one another.

Yet every society also includes people who feel looked over and left out.

Every society includes people who get blackballed, cold-shouldered, and voted off the island.

I don’t know why we exclude others.

Perhaps it’s because of pride.

Perhaps it’s because of fear.

Perhaps it’s because of ignorance.

Or perhaps it’s because of a desire to feel superior. 

This became most apparent to me during our last vacation.

Jackie and I were aboard a 747.

There were first-class passengers and coach-classed passengers.

The first-class passengers were served gourmet food on china and crystal by their own flight attendants; those of us in coach ate snacks served in paper bags with plastic wrappers.

The first-class passengers had room to stretch and sleep; those of us in coach had barely enough room to lean our chairs back without bumping our knees against the chair in front of us.

The first-class passengers got hot moist Towelettes for comfort and personal hygiene;

those of us in coach had to sit and stew in our facial sweat.

And just in case we forgot we were in coach, during the flight the flight attendant drew the curtain between to first and second class to make sure you knew exactly where you stood.

That curtain is a reminder to us all that we live in a world that excludes.

We live in a world that segments and seperates.

We live in a world that divides along racial lines.

We live in a world that divides along socioeconomic lines.

We live in a world that divides along gender lines.

But God has called us to be in the world but not of the world.

We must not allow the Spirit of exclusivity that governs this fallen world to operate in the church.


That’s what James is talking about in this text.

There’s no first class and coach class in the church.

First of all let’s consider the exhortation against favoritism.

James 2:1 My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.

The apostle Paul declared in Romans 2:11, “… there is no partiality with God.”

In other words, with God, everybody is somebody.

With God there is neither Greek nor Jew,

circumcised nor uncircumcised,

With God there is male nor female,

rich nor poor,

With God everybody is somebody. 

The word translated partiality literally means “receiving the face”.

It literally means making judgments about people purely on the basis of outward appearance.

It means making an assessment purely on a superficial basis, without any consideration of the person’s true merits, abilities, or character.

It means granting special favor and respect to someone just because of who they appear to be at a surface level.

Let me let you in a little secret.

Every one of us in here today has a couple of unpublished lists.

One list contains the types of people we like to hang around.

They are the types of people who promote our self-image – the people who make us feel like SOMEBODY.

The other list contains the types of people we avoid.

They are the folk who pose a threat to our self-image.

The fallen human nature needs constant validation.

So the fallen human nature wants to hang out with folk who beef up my self-image and avoid those who pose a threat to my self-image.

That’s why we like being associated with powerful, influential people.

That’s why we like name dropping.

It beefs up our self-image – it makes us feel like SOMEBODY.


That was all right when you were in the world.

That’s how the world behaves.

But now that we’re new creatures in Christ Jesus, it’s time for a Holy Ghost Makeover.


It takes both hands to hang on to Jesus.

You can’t hold on to racism and hold on to Jesus.

You can’t hold on to sexism and hold on to Jesus.

You can’t hold on to classism and hold on to Jesus.

You can’t hold on to materialism and hold on to Jesus.



(Read verses 2-4)

In other words, let’s suppose two people visit your church – one of them is wearing an expensive gold ring and a Rolex watch,  is dressed in a tailored suit, and wearing Testoni Norvegese shoes. 

And another man shows up on the same day who can’t even afford a suit.

He’s wearing a pair of sneakers and a pair of slacks that are obviously not his size and a tattered and torn shirt. 

If you pay special attention to the rich man and give him a choice seat.

If you go out of your way to accommodate the one who appears to be prosperous.

And don’t even bother to find the poor man an decent place to sit.

Or even worse, “You humiliate him by having him sit somewhere you wouldn’t dare ask the rich man to sit.

If you treat the rich man like SOMEBODY and the poor man like NOBODY.

Then you have allowed worldliness to come into the church.   

That’s what favoritism is – when you treat some people like SOMEBODY and others like NOBODY.

Isn’t it interesting that James is talking to Christians.


Not at the country club down the road.

Not at your job – not at GE, not at GKN, not at Wal-Mart.

Not at your school – not at Eastern, Western, Southern.

But in your churches.

Don’t get me wrong, we have a responsibility to deal with the injustices of racism and prejudice in our communities, this nation, and the world.

But first and foremost, we must address the sin of favoritism right here in the church.


We have to take a good look at ourselves as a body of believers who confess Jesus Christ.

Who do we select to hold offices?

Who do we allow to serve?

Who do we allow to sing in the choir?

Who do we allow to serve on our committees?

Who do we listen to when we conduct business?


As a church, we cannot champion the cause of Christ and commit the sin of favoritism.

We cannot make distinctions among ourselves because of age, race, gender, socioeconomics, or any of the like.

To do so is to compromise the cause of Christ and place our witness in the community in grave danger.



(Read vss. 4-9)

When we show favoritism, we set ourselves up as prejudiced judge.

There’s nothing worse than a prejudiced judge.

There’s nothing worse than an intolerant, bigoted, discriminatory public official.

When sworn in to office, a judge must take various oaths to uphold the laws and the Constitution of both their jurisdiction and the United States.

It’s a clear violation of a judge’s code of judicial conduct for a judge to be biased.

Anytime a judge has a personal bias or prejudice, he should disqualify himself in such a proceeding.   

When a judge is biased, the innocent are found guilty and the guilty found innocent.

When a judge is biased, the public loses confidence in the judicial system.

When a judge is biased, there’s no justice; there’s just us.

That’s why so many black folk applauded when O.J. was found innocent.

We were applauding for all the prejudiced judges our community has had to endure over the years.

Judges who found us guilty not on the basis of the evidence but on the color of our skin.

As we continue our exploration of James 2:1-9, in verse 4 of our text, James accuses his hearers of showing partiality among themselves, and becoming judges with evil thoughts.

God rebuked the prophet Samuel for acting like one in 1 Samuel 16:7.

King Saul had disobeyed God.

So he sent the prophet Samuel to the house of Jesse to seek out Saul’s successor.

Upon seeing the eldest son, Samuel thought surely the Lord’s anointed stands before me.

But the Lord said to Samuel,

“Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him.

For the Lord does not see as man sees;

for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

When we show favoritism, not only do we set ourselves up as prejudiced judges, we set ourselves up as opponents of God. 

Yet that’s precisely what we do when we show favoritism in the church.

In the 5th verse James says,

“Listen, my beloved brethren:

Has God not chosen the poor of this world

to be rich in faith

and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?  

When I was growing up, we played basketball at the Mebane Recreation Center just about every day after school.

Usually, the two best players would become captains and then take turns picking players until they had picked their respective teams.

If you were a captain, the goal was to choose the best players available to be on your team.

It didn’t matter what brand of sneakers a player had on – was he the best available for the team?

It didn’t matter how nice a player looked in his sweat suit – was he the best available for the team?

It didn’t matter whether or not a player was related to you – was he the best available for the team?

So it is in the church.

In the church we must not show favoritism on the basis of age, gender, race, education, or money.

The text isn’t saying that God doesn’t love the rich and care for the rich – he does.

But more often than not the rich have more faith in their money than God.

The church functions by faith.

Hab 2:4  “…the just shall live by his FAITH”.

2 Cor 5:7 “For we walk by FAITH, not by sight:”

Heb 11:6 “But without FAITH it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.  KJV

The church cannot move as she ought to move when we show favoritism.

If the cause of Christ is going to be advanced – we need some folk who are rich in faith.

If you have some folk who are rich in faith, you can defeat giants.

If you have some folk who are rich in faith, you can tear down strongholds.

If you have some folk who are rich in faith, you can lay hold to the promised land.

If you have some folk who are rich in faith, you can say to mountains be thou removed and cast into the sea.

If you have some folk who are rich in faith, you can realize God’s vision for your lives and for your church.

If you have some folk who are rich in faith,

marriages can be rekindled,

families can be reunited,

communities can be reclaimed.

How many have I got this morning who are rich in faith?

You might not appear to have much on this side of heaven.

But the Word says God has chosen you, to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised to those who love Him?

Do you love Him?

I love Him because He first loved me!

I love Him because He died to set me free!

I might not look the part, but I’m rich.

You might not believe me, but I’m rich.

When we show favoritism not only do we set ourselves up as prejudiced judges and opponents of God; we set ourselves up for further exploitation.

(read v. 6-7)

James says it’s the rich who bully you!

During James time, class divisions wracked the Middle East.

The rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer.

The rich were constantly grabbing more land at the expense of the poor.

The rich were constantly dragging the poor into court.

The rich were constantly forcing the poor to work for them for an unjust wage.

The rich took advantage of the poor.

James says it’s the rich who blaspheme the name of Jesus!

The rich are the ones mocking Jesus.

            The rich are the ones denying Jesus.

                        The rich are the ones attacking the name of Jesus!

When we show favoritism we set ourselves up as lawbreakers!

(read v 8-9)

Now I know what some of you are thinking – we are no longer under the law.

Yes and no!

Yes – you are no longer under the Old Covenant Law.

Romans 6:14 (NKJV) For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law (the Old Covenant Law) but under grace.  

No – you are under the royal law which is the law of the kingdom.

When asked, what is the greatest commandment Jesus answered in Matthew 22:37-39.  

'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart,

with all your soul,

and with all your mind.'  

38 "This is the first and great commandment.  

39 "And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'  

40 "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."  

And again during the last supper Jesus told his disciples in John 13:34-35.

"A new command I give you: Love one another.

As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." 

When we show favoritism we violate the royal law of love.

In other words, in Christ, EVERYBODY IS SOMEBODY!

The world might marginalize, mistreat, and mishandle me …

But in Christ, I am somebody!

I am somebody because of Who made me!

I am somebody because of How I have been made!

I am somebody because of Who I am!

I am somebody because of Whose I am!

I am somebody because I’m royalty!

My brother is king of kings, and Lord of Lords.

My brother is the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

My brother is the fairest of 10,000.

My brother is Jesus, Mary’s baby, the root of Jesse.

I’m chosen … I’m God’s elect … I’m a child of God.


The world might pass me over …

My employer might pass me over … 

            The cliques might pass me over …

                                    The in-crowd might pass me over …


In Christ … you’re an heirs and heiresses to riches untold.

In Christ … you’ve got title deed to a home not made with human hands.

In Christ …you’re a citizen of a new community.

In other words, let them know that in Christ, I AM SOMEBODY.

In Luke 16:19-31 Jesus tells the story the rich man and Lazarus.

Jesus said, "There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed and who lived each day in luxury. 

At his door lay a diseased beggar named Lazarus.

As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man's table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores. 

Finally, the beggar died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham.

The rich man also died and was buried, and his soul went to the place of the dead.

There, in torment, he saw Lazarus in the far distance with Abraham. 

"The rich man shouted, 'Father Abraham, have some pity!

Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in anguish in these flames.' 

"But Abraham said to him, 'Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing.

So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. 

And besides, there is a great chasm separating us.

Anyone who wanted to cross over to you from here is stopped at its edge, and no one there can cross over to us.' 

The kingdom of heaven is about radical reversal.

The kingdom of heaven is about the last being first and the first being last.

The reason the church ought to treat everybody like somebody is because the church is to bear witness that there is a God in heaven who one day will make straight the crooked and right the wrong.

The church is to bear witness that a redistribution of resources is on the way.

I heard a woman chime in on the issue of illegal immigration.

It’s not the Mexican’s fault that he comes to the U.S.

It’s a God-given right for every man to expect a decent and fair wage.

The true enemy of us all is greed and predatory capitalism.

There is enough for us all – but man wants to horde as much as he can horde.

Go ahead and horde all you want – death shall pry it from your hands.

But I came by to remind somebody that the wealth of the wicked is laid up for the righteous.

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