Read James 2:1-13
What appropriate words for us today! We find ourselves in a time when the realities of racism have resurfaced. We live in a day when lines are drawn and rocks are thrown on the basis of political affiliation. We are part of an era of human history when judgments are made based on a person’s response to the risks of a virus.
Although the specifics of our situations may be unique, the more general attitudes of favoritism towards some and disregard for others is not new. We could identify dozens more if we traced this human tendency throughout history. And James makes it clear that even first-century Christians were not immune.
The divisive issue spoken of in this text was along economic lines. The rich were treated like royalty. The under resourced were ill-treated. The rationale likely seemed sound. To them, wealth may have appeared to have been a sign of God’s approval and blessing (Matt. 19:16-30). Meanwhile, the lack of it must have been proof of God’s displeasure. And besides all of that, their favored treatment of the rich may have well illustrated their aspirations for personal gain from them.
But favoritism and disregard on account of net worth are not appropriate according to verses 5-7. Even in the first century, those less resourced were often people of great faith. Even the early church’s own experience of oppression under the hands of the rich should have taught them a lesson.
Maybe your tendencies of favoritism towards some and disregard toward others have nothing to do with net worth. In speaking more broadly to the divisive issues of our day, James points to the fact that you must “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Lev. 19:18; Lk. 10:25-37) Your neighbor is much more than the person who lives in the home next to yours. Certainly, that person is included. Your neighbor is the person you encounter in the course of daily living. Your neighbor is the person different from you. Your neighbor is the person in need, to whom you have opportunity to demonstrate kindness and help. Your neighbor is the person you have perhaps, in your mind, judged and possibly, with your actions, disregarded. Your neighbor is a person deserving of mercy rather than neglect.
Favoritism for some and disregard for others have no place in the Christian experience. Have they taken root in your life?