2 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
James is now showing us a number of important practical situations where it is important for us to demonstrate the reality of our faith through actions. Not that our actions are necessary for salvation, but they are a natural outworking of faith. If we have true, saving faith then we will act in line with the perfect law of God which gives freedom (1:25).
Favouritism is endemic in our culture and is completely instinctive to each one of us personally, if we’re honest. If someone looks wealthy, well dressed, attractive, pleasant and polite, we instantly tend to warm to that person, believe what they say, trust them, respect them, etc. more than someone who does not benefit from those characteristics.
Thinking about this, why should this be? Why do we tend to prefer someone like this? After all, isn’t it true that the most effective confidence tricksters are those who look attractive and trustworthy outwardly? Let me suggest that it is part of our own misplaced self-confidence. We tend to think that we can spot the good guys from the bad guys, just by looking at them. We rely on our judgement. Big mistake!
Recall when the prophet Samuel was sent off by God to track down the son of Jesse whom God had chosen to be king over the people of Israel in the place of Saul. Jesse had eight sons and all went to meet Samuel. When the first, Eliab, appeared this is what went through Samuel’s mind, and how the Lord replied:
6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.’
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’
1 Samuel 16:6-7
The reality is that only God looks at the heart and makes a right judgement.
In our passage in James, he calls us “brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.” It is Jesus who has the glory, Jesus how can and does judge rightly. Our role is rather to love our neighbour as ourself and to treat all brothers and sisters in Christ fairly and impartially. The risk of doing otherwise is that we turn into judges with evil thoughts, sinning by showing favouritism and sowing seeds of resentment and disunity within the fellowship.
More on this tomorrow and on Monday, but for the moment let’s endeavour to treat all brothers and sisters in Christ well, as we would want to be treated ourselves, without fear or favour. This is a true outworking of proper faith in the Lord Jesus and an important command which he requires of us.
We acknowledge that we often apply our own standards in evaluating people, looking mainly at the outward appearance and often making wrong judgements.
We are sorry that we presume to judge others, when it is not our place to do so, and we ask for your forgiveness and mercy.
Help us to ensure that we do not act as judges with evil thoughts, but rather show us how to love our neighbours as ourselves under all circumstances.
Write this your perfect law on our hearts we pray, in response to the salvation which we have through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God.