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Bias in the Body-James 2_1-13

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Bias in the Body

James 2:1-13


Despite a stern ruling from a California judge that Paris Hilton would not be allowed any alternative jail methods or electronic monitoring, the socialite was "reassigned" May 31, 2007 to just that for an undisclosed "medical condition."

"I can't specifically talk about the medical situation other than to say that, yes, it played a part in this," said sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore in front of a crowd of reporters. According to a press release issued by Whitmore, the reassignment was made possible to the Community-Based Alternatives to Custody (CBAC) Program. Superior Court Judge Michael T. Sauer sentenced Hilton in May of 2007 to 45 days in jail for violating probation on an alcohol-related reckless driving case. Her sentence was later reduced to 23 days and she began serving her time June 3, 2007 at the Century Regional Detention Facility in suburban Los Angeles. Hilton's conditions were already favorable in relation to the average inmate in the 2,200-person facility, as she was serving time in the "special needs" unit. The unit contains 12 two-person cells reserved for celebrities and other high-profile inmates. Harvey Levin, the managing editor at the Web site that broke the story,, told MSNBC that the site will be digging to find out what the medical condition is throughout the day. Levin's initial speculation was that it was related to a psychological condition, a sentiment shared by CNN entertainment reporter Brooke Anderson. "We got word that she had been crying a lot, saying that her 12-by-8-foot cell was very cold and very bright," Anderson told CNN. "She wasn't sleeping (and) she wasn't eating, and she did get a visit from her psychiatrist." If the medical condition is related to a physical ailment, Anderson said that there were no indications of it at the MTV Movie Awards, just hours before she began serving her sentence.  Angered over Hilton's reassignment, MSNBC legal analyst Susan Filan stated, "Remember Dr. Jack Kevorkian? He was practically dying in prison and he couldn't get out," Filan told MSNBC. "He had cancer of every kind and organ, and heart failure ... this is baloney." For the time being, it hasn't been determined what Hilton's exact medical condition is. Nonetheless, Filan questions why it requires Hilton to return to her mansion because of it, rather than be treated at the jail's infirmary. "These county jails and prisons are equipped to deal with people's medical conditions," Filan said. "When you are incarcerated, sometimes you can even bring your prescription medicine with you. You're reassigned to their doctors. They assess you and dispense new medicines for you ... I think it's nothing other than special treatment."  Michael Musto, a reporter for the Village Voice, told MSNBC that Hilton "has a brilliant team of people behind her who made her into a victim and complained about whatever ailment it was, whether it was mental -- because she was visited by a shrink ... or the 400 people that got a staph infection before she got in there," Musto told MSNBC. "Believe it or not, there are people with really serious medical ailments in prison -- people with AIDS and cancer and all kinds of things. They are not pampered. They are not given special treatment. They are just told to stay in their cell."

·        We see favoritism in almost every area of this life

·        There are celebrities getting special treatment just because they are famous

·        Political leaders are giving special treatment to friends and financial supporters

·        Parents often give one child special treatment

·        We have laws in this country that say that it is unlawful to discriminate based on gender, age and race.

·        But at the same time we have special rules for particular ethnic or social groups (Homosexuals)

·        Favoritism is no less apparent in the church.

·        I have spent a lot of time in churches and have read enough situations about churches to know that the church is often very similar to the world in the way it treats people.

·        As James continues his letter and the issues of faith and works, he again maintains that true faith in God works itself out in how we relate to people and our relationship with the World.

·        In 2:1-13 he addresses the issue of showing favoritism to one person over another.  He states that not only is it inappropriate but sinful.

James Identifies a Problem in the Church (2:1-4)

2:1 My brothers and sisters, do not show prejudice if you possess faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. 2:2 For if someone comes into your assembly wearing a gold ring and fine clothing, and a poor person enters in filthy clothes, 2:3 do you pay attention to the one who is finely dressed and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and to the poor person, “You stand over there,” or “Sit on the floor”? 2:4 If so, have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil motives?

·         Every church has its problems and James comes to the point quickly in identifying his reader’s situation.

·         Basically his statement in v. 1 is saying that Faith in Jesus Christ is incompatible with showing favoritism of one person over another.

·         Favoritism was not unusual then and this is no different now.

o        Appearance: how do they dress, what do they drive, where do they live. Their hair, clothes, gender favoritism etc.

o        Achievements: How famous are they, what have they accomplished, their standing in the community, their role and how we regard its significance. The person’s financial or business success.

o        Ancestry: who do they belong to, who are their parents or other relatives, the significance of their last name, heritage or cultural acceptability.

o        Patronage: political favoritism, willingness to give jobs to friends over other qualified applicants etc.

o        Personality: the favoritism of a person because their character and demeanor is particular appealing.

o        Parental:  parents sometimes show special treatment to particular children, also with Grandparents.

·         It is significant that James mentions Jesus in terms of his glory.

·         Jesus before his incarnation was in his full majesty but humbled himself in his earthy form.

·         He was rich but came as someone who was poor and was despised.

·         In a sense James is saying that what was done to Christ, the showing of favoritism is doing to others whom Christ loves and in effect are persecuting him over again.

·         Verse 2 describes the type of favoritism as based on appearance and achievements.

·         He uses an example but unlikely that it was hypothetical.

·         The church has show partiality to the person who wore the gold ring and fine clothes; symbols of wealth and accomplishment.

·         He is compared to the person who enters the church who is poor and is known as such by their dirty clothes.

·         From James’ example there is no indication as to the spiritual position of either person; they could be unbelievers exploring the church, they could be new believers. But later in verse 5 He clarifies their spiritual position.

·         Verse 3 describes how they show favoritism.

o        They pay special attention to the rich person.

o        They offer the rich person the best seat in the house; they are given a place of honor and comfort.

o        The poor person is ordered to stand or sit on the floor and is ignored; they are given a position of submission or disgrace

·         Are their ways that you have seen favoritism in the church…in our church?

·         James then states that they have determined through their prejudice who is important and who is not according to their standards.

·         Their motives have caused they to have a worldly perspective on value and they have shown themselves to be same as the double minded man of 1:7.

·         They have wanted to appeal to the affluent and what they might provide rather than dependence upon God showing that their motives were for personal gain.

·         By judging the value of a person they have taken the role of God.

A Chicago bank once asked for a letter of recommendation on a young Bostonian being considered for employment. The Boston investment house could not say enough about the young man. His father, they wrote, was a Cabot; his mother was a Lowed. Further back was a happy blend of Saltonstalls, Peabodys, and other of Boston’s first families. His recommendation was given without hesitation.  Several days later, the Chicago bank sent a note saying the information supplied was altogether inadequate. It read: “We are not contemplating using the young man for breeding purposes. Just for work.”

James Reveals the Inconsistency in the Church (2:5-7)

2:5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters! Did not God choose the poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him? 2:6 But you have dishonored the poor! Are not the rich oppressing you and dragging you into the courts? 2:7 Do they not blaspheme the good name of the one you belong to?

·        James sees how what they are claiming to believe and are doing are not lining up.

·        He reminds them of 1:9 and his discussion of how God has chosen the poor of this world to inherit great riches in Heaven.

·        He is clearly talking about the person of faith that does not prosper in this life because of their decision to follow Jesus.

·        They have given up this worlds ambitions in order to claim the riches that come from following God.

·        Verse 6 makes a clear distinction between the poor and the rich person.  While in verses 1-4 it was not clear as to the spiritual state of either person was, it is now clear.

·        The poor person in his filthy clothes is a believer visiting for the first time or new to the faith while the rich person is not a believer at all.

·        The church had decided to oppress a fellow believer in the faith in order to appeal to the kindness of the rich unbeliever.

o       They may be showing favoritism to avoid persecution

o       They may be showing favoritism in order to gain a benefactor that may support them.

·        Why do we show favoritism in the church today?

·        He reminds them that the very same person who they are giving honor to would not hesitate and has shown himself to be willing to oppress them.

·        They are trying to show respect and gain it from the one who would not and will not respect them.

·        They are inconsistent in that they are willing to oppress the poor believer in order to gain favor from the rich oppressor.

·        He finishes the revealing of their inconsistency by asking a question. His question is meant to show them that it is wrong to align themselves with those who would disgrace the name of God.

In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi wrote that during his student days he read the Gospels seriously and considered converting to Christianity. He believed that in the teachings of Jesus he could find the solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India.  So one Sunday he decided to attend services at a nearby church and talk to the minister about becoming a Christian. When he entered the sanctuary, however, the usher refused to give him a seat and suggested that he go worship with his own people. Gandhi left the church and never returned. “If Christians have caste differences also,” he said, “I might as well remain a Hindu.” That usher’s prejudice not only betrayed Jesus but also turned a person away from trusting Him as Savior.

·         There is no place for inconsistency in the church.

·         This hypocritical act has the devastating effect of turning people away from the church.

James Exposes the Violation in the Church (2:8-11)

2:8 But if you fulfill the royal law as expressed in this scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 2:9 But if you show prejudice, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as violators. 2:10 For the one who obeys the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 2:11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a violator of the law.

·        James refers to Lev. 19:18:

19:18 You must not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the children of your people, but you must love your neighbor as yourself.

·         He refers to it as the ‘royal law’ because all the things that we are to do as Christians can be summed up in it.

·         Jesus says something similar in Mat. 22:36-40:

22:36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 22:37 Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 22:38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 22:39 The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 22:40 All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

·         James is not advocating an abandonment of the law but simply wants to clarify like he does repeatedly throughout his letter that faith is expressed outwardly, in particular through our relationships.

·         The ultimate (Royal Law) thing you can do is to love others in the same way that you love yourself

o        We would never want to hurt ourselves, insult ourselves, or discriminate against ourselves

·         Even those who say they hate themselves it is often the case that they are doing everything they can to do what is best for themselves.

·         So James says, if you would hate to be belittled in favor of someone else, do as you would want it done to you.

·         To discriminate against the poor insults those God has chosen (v. 9) making them as guilty as those who blaspheme God.

·         They insult the creator.

·         James makes it clear that favoritism is sin even though people in the church may have thought it inconsequential.

·         In v. 10 he describes how the O.T. law worked.  They were to keep all of the law but keeping it all required that you did not fail on one single point.

·         While they may not have done anything deemed serious such as adultery or murder ( regarded as very serious), the sin of favoritism still makes them a law breaker and as guilty as if they had committed adultery or murder.

·         James mentions murder possibly in a spiritual sense, stating that through favoritism they have symbolically murdered others.

·         The mention of adultery also can be viewed from a spiritual vantage point, where James is referring to the church’s action of showing fondness for those they should have not.  They should have been dedicated to their fellow believers but have dedicated themselves to those who hate God.

·         His tone suggests that murder and adultery are taking place in the church, although in a metaphorical sense.

Mary Ann Dennis was walking her bull mastiff, Buz, in New York City’s Riverside Park when an elderly man told her, “That guy robbed me.” The suspect, in black jeans and tank top, was fleeing. Dennis urged the victim to help her follow the robber, but the man couldn’t run. So five-foot-two Dennis went it alone. With Dennis and Buz in pursuit, the suspect raced out of the park, ran one block and hailed a cab. “I was screaming and waving my hands,” Dennis says, “but a taxi picked him up.” Dennis kept running. Just as she was losing hope, a white van pulled up beside her. After she explained the situation, the driver said, “Get in!” When they caught up with the cab, its passenger was gone. The cabby told Dennis the man had fled toward Broadway. She and Buz picked up the chase on foot. Spotting her quarry hopping into another cab, Dennis leaped in front of it, shouting, “Stop! That man robbed somebody.” The thief jumped out and threatened Dennis before running to a third taxi. Dennis jumped in front just before the traffic light changed. Within moments the police arrived and handcuffed the suspect, who was charged with third-degree robbery and criminal possession of stolen property. Would Dennis do it again? “Definitely! Jesus said love your neighbor as yourself. If the whole world lived that way, this wouldn’t be a cold city.”

James Appeals to the Faith of the Church (2:12-13)

2:12 Speak and act as those who will be judged by a law that gives freedom. 2:13 For judgment is merciless for the one who has shown no mercy. But mercy triumphs over judgment.

·        At the end of this discussion of Favoritism, James appeals to his readers to speak and act consistency as ones that have heard the word and are acting in keeping with its commands.

·        He wants them to make what they say and what they do a habitual practice.

·        Maintaining speech and a lifestyle that is consistent with faith is to be a common practice.

·        Included in this common practice is the willingness to be impartial, judging the value of each person in the sight of God not by worldly standards.

·        He states that they are to act as those judged by a law that brings freedom.  This is distinct from what Jesus is talking about in Matt. 5:20:

For I tell you, unless your righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

·         The law that brings death was the law of the Pharisees and the law for which Jesus called people to go beyond.  Jesus was calling people to the law of Freedom that James was talking about.

·         He is basically calling them to live as Christians-ones who have been liberated from the law that cannot be fulfilled to the law that gives life.

·         They are called to seek God with all their heart, soul and mind and demonstrate it by love for people.

·         James’ statement in v. 13 may have been in reference to Zechariah 7:9-10:

7:9 “The Lord who rules over all said, ‘Exercise true judgment and show brotherhood and compassion to each other. 7:10 You must not oppress the widow, the orphan, the foreigner, or the poor, nor should anyone secretly plot evil against his fellow human being.’

·         According to James, the person who does not show mercy (in this case treats a person badly) deserves to be treated with the same care that they treated others.

·         The context is from God’s perspective that God does not look lightly at the mistreatment of others.

·         Verse 13 is both an encouragement to the faithful and call to the one who is showing favoritism.

·         He offers encouragement to the one who is faithful that God will give mercy.

·         He offers hope to the mistaken by calling them to seek the proper action and God will suspend judgement.

·         God is willing to count our mercy-good conduct as evidence for our genuine faith.

One night a cobbler dreamed that the next day Jesus was coming to visit him. The dream seemed so real that he got up very early the next morning and hurried to the woods, where he gathered green boughs to decorate his shop for the arrival of so great a Guest. He waited all morning, but, to his disappointment, his shop remained quiet, except for an old man who limped up to the door asking to come in for a few minutes of warmth. While the man was resting, the cobbler noticed that the old fellow’s shoes were worn through. Touched, the cobbler took a new pair from his shelves and saw to it that the stranger was wearing them as he went on his way. Throughout the afternoon the cobbler waited, but his only visitor was an elderly woman. He had seen her struggling under a heavy load of firewood, and he invited her, too, into his shop to eat; he saw to it that she had a nourishing meal before she went on her way. As night began to fall, the cobbler heard a child crying outside his door. The child was lost and afraid. The cobbler went out, soothed the youngster’s tears and, with the little hand in his, took the child home. When he returned, the cobbler was sad. He was convinced that while he had been away he had missed the visit of his Lord. Now he lived through the moments as he had imagined them: the knock, the latch lifted, the radiant face, the offered cup. He would have kissed the hands where the nails had been, washed the feet where the spikes had entered. Then the Lord would have sat and talked to him. In his anguish, the cobbler cried out, “Why is it, Lord, that Your feet delay? Have you forgotten that this was the day?” Then, soft in the silence a voice he heard: “Lift up your heart for I kept my word. Three times I came to your friendly door; three times my shadow was on your floor. I was the man with the bruised feet; I was the woman you gave to eat; I was the child on the homeless street.”


·        When we pause to think about what James is saying, are there times where we have shown favoritism?

·        Have we given special treatment or allowed ourselves to give special consideration to celebrities or to those who are well known?

·        In your family, have you given special treatment to one child over another?

·        At school do you find teachers who give preferential treatment to particular students?

·        Are you tempted to go that extra mile in order to make someone your friend?

·        In the church are we willing to treat people differently based on what they can do or how they look or their character or their social standing?

·        The Bible is clear that if we have shown favoritism we are guilty of sin.  We need to seek God’s mercy and change our behavior.

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