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True Religion Shows no Partiality

Chapter marking and headings are invaluable to allow us as believers to quickly and accurately find the section of scripture that we are discussion, but the downside is that often we tend to separate thoughts and ideas by the section. Let’s remember that this was a letter and so the thoughts should flow. So this section flows from James’ thought on what pure and undefiled religion is.
And here’s the logic - if true religion is about loving God and loving people, especially the poor and oppressed, then showing partiality to people who are poor and oppressed is the opposite of what is at the heart of Christianity.
Partiality for any reason is sinful and opposite the Gospel.
Galatians 3:28–29 ESV
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
When we show partiality because of socio-economic, skin color, or even sexual orientation we are rejecting the heart of the Gospel.
Showing Partiality Rejects Total Depravity
First, showing partiality rejects the idea that all men are sinful. It does this by seeing some as having more worth than others. When we favor one over the other because of their wealth, or the color of their skin we are assigning greater worth on the one than the other.
But the Bible teaches that man are all equal in relation to God’s justice.
Romans 5:12 ESV
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—
Romans 5:19 ESV
For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
Psalm 143:2 ESV
Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.
Romans 7:14 ESV
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.
We are all slaves, sold under sin to sin. When I treat one person or one group as more worthy of Worshipping God in the body, and we do this when we favor one over another, then I am rejecting this. I am placing worth or at least thinking, “God would not bless them so if it wasn’t for their righteousness.”
This is the sin of Job’s friends. Listen the words of Eliphaz:
Job 7–8 ESV
“Has not man a hard service on earth, and are not his days like the days of a hired hand? Like a slave who longs for the shadow, and like a hired hand who looks for his wages, so I am allotted months of emptiness, and nights of misery are apportioned to me. When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ But the night is long, and I am full of tossing till the dawn. My flesh is clothed with worms and dirt; my skin hardens, then breaks out afresh. My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle and come to their end without hope. “Remember that my life is a breath; my eye will never again see good. The eye of him who sees me will behold me no more; while your eyes are on me, I shall be gone. As the cloud fades and vanishes, so he who goes down to Sheol does not come up; he returns no more to his house, nor does his place know him anymore. “Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. Am I the sea, or a sea monster, that you set a guard over me? When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’ then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I would choose strangling and death rather than my bones. I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Leave me alone, for my days are a breath. What is man, that you make so much of him, and that you set your heart on him, visit him every morning and test him every moment? How long will you not look away from me, nor leave me alone till I swallow my spit? If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of mankind? Why have you made me your mark? Why have I become a burden to you? Why do you not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity? For now I shall lie in the earth; you will seek me, but I shall not be.” Then Bildad the Shuhite answered and said: “How long will you say these things, and the words of your mouth be a great wind? Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert the right? If your children have sinned against him, he has delivered them into the hand of their transgression. If you will seek God and plead with the Almighty for mercy, if you are pure and upright, surely then he will rouse himself for you and restore your rightful habitation. And though your beginning was small, your latter days will be very great. “For inquire, please, of bygone ages, and consider what the fathers have searched out. For we are but of yesterday and know nothing, for our days on earth are a shadow. Will they not teach you and tell you and utter words out of their understanding? “Can papyrus grow where there is no marsh? Can reeds flourish where there is no water? While yet in flower and not cut down, they wither before any other plant. Such are the paths of all who forget God; the hope of the godless shall perish. His confidence is severed, and his trust is a spider’s web. He leans against his house, but it does not stand; he lays hold of it, but it does not endure. He is a lush plant before the sun, and his shoots spread over his garden. His roots entwine the stone heap; he looks upon a house of stones. If he is destroyed from his place, then it will deny him, saying, ‘I have never seen you.’ Behold, this is the joy of his way, and out of the soil others will spring. “Behold, God will not reject a blameless man, nor take the hand of evildoers. He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouting. Those who hate you will be clothed with shame, and the tent of the wicked will be no more.”
Job 4:7–8 ESV
“Remember: who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off? As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.
Their message: If you were righteous like us this wouldn’t have happened to you. You would have been chosen to be blessed like us.
This is dangerous and cancerous to the body.
Romans 2:9–11 ESV
There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.
Showing Partiality rejects God’s Attitude
James 2:5 ESV
Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?
James assumes that his readers are well aware of the many poor people who have embraced Jesus as their Messiah. Their conversion is powerful evidence of God’s deep regard for poor people. In essence James is affirming that as God has chosen you for salvation according to His gracious will, so also God saves men and women irregardless of their social, political, economic, or racial status. God is not the least bit concerned about your bank account, skin color or dance card: He’s concerned about your heart. In a stark reversal of status, poor people have become rich in faith.
In a stark reversal of status, poor people have become rich in faith.
And that’s the key: Faith. You see in life there are only two types of people that Christians should recognize: Those who have faith in Christ and those who don’t.
When someone enters our life there are In a stark reversal of status, poor people have become rich in faith.
Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos, 2000), 105.
That’s what makes the dishonoring of another believer based on external things so anti-Gospel and blasphemous. And we’re all guilty of it to some extent. When I treat one person as more worthy of my time, my love, or the gospel because of their skin tone, their clothing, their smell or any other factor I am putting myself in the place of the Holy Spirit, picking winners and losers instead of allowing the love of God to go out into the lives of men and women who need to the gospel.
We don’t know who is and isn’t God’s child around us, but we do know this: God loves people, and he has sent his son to die for people and to make people of every nation, tribe and creed his adopted sons and daughters, and so we should place a crown on the head of every person we meet, giving them the honor that Christ gives to us despite our sin.
Showing Partiality is a rejection of the Great Commandment
One day when Jesus was teaching and a teacher of the law looking to make himself look big by “catching” Jesus in the midst of a theological debate asks Jesus
“Teacher, what is the greatest commandment.”
Jesus response is simple:
Matthew 22:37–40 ESV
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 first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
One of the dangers that James notes about showing partiality is that it not only rejects human nature, giving more worth to one over the other, it not only rejects God’s Character and Attitude towards others, but it is a rejection of the Great Commandment. God has called us to love him supremely and primarily, but he has also called us to love people.
The Greek word is Agape is not to be confused with other types of love. Let’s compare two types of love described in scripture: Agape and Eros
The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament B. The Words for Love in Pre-biblical Greek.

The specific nature of ἀγαπᾶν becomes apparent at this point. Ἔρως is a general love of the world seeking satisfaction wherever it can. Ἀγαπᾶν is a love which makes distinctions, choosing and keeping to its object. Ἔρως is determined by a more or less indefinite impulsion towards its object. Ἀγαπᾶν is a free and decisive act determined by its subject. Ἐρᾶν in its highest sense is used of the upward impulsion of man, of his love for the divine.81 Ἀγαπᾶν relates for the most part to the love of God, to the love of the higher lifting up the lower, elevating the lower above others.82 Eros seeks in others the fulfilment of its own life’s hunger. Ἀγαπᾶν must often be translated “to show love”; it is a giving, active love on the other’s behalf.

This is what we are called to, to love others like this. When I show favortism I am doing the opposite of Agape - giving, active love on the other’s behalf. You are being meriless, not merciful, and James gives this condemnation: “Judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy”.
Materialism, racism, sexism, classism, tribalism, they all lead us away from God’s call to love others as one loves himself. They pervert the human soul. How else do we explain how a man who steals a ham goes to jail and a man who steals an airline goes to the Senate? How else do we account for the adulation we give to selfish celebrities who spend their lives exploiting us? The answer can only be that favortism fosters spiritual derangement.
Materialism perverts the human soul. How else do we explain how a man who steals a ham goes to jail and a man who steals an airline goes to the Senate? How else do we account for the adulation we give to selfish celebrities who spend their lives exploiting us? The answer can only be that a materialistic focus fosters spiritual derangement.
Jesus saw everyone as they really are. Gold fingers and flowing garments meant nothing to him. Neither did the shabby attire of the poor. He noted the heart, not the wardrobe.
Jesus saw people, not problems. and We must have the hearts to do so too.
Preaching the Word: James—Faith That Works The Reasoning Against Favoritism (vv. 5-7)

To see like Jesus, to stand on the level plain at the foot of the cross and live out our varied relationships to God’s glory—that is our call and our privilege

R. Kent Hughes, James: Faith That Works, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991), 94.
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