Today we’ll take a look at James’ rebuke to those who gave special treatment to the rich.
Jam. 2:1-4 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. (2) For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; (3) And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: (4) Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
Faith and Favoritism Don’t Mix
It’s easy to imagine the circumstances of James’ readers. They were scattered by persecution. They may have lost possessions, homes, and work. When they relocated, they began to form new local churches. When some rich person came to their church, they welcomed him warmly because of the money he could bring to the congregation – more to share with those in need. When a poor visitor dropped, they didn’t receive him as well. Why? Because he was another burden, a negative on the church’s balance sheet.
James rebukes this attitude of courting the rich and making the poor feel unwelcome at church. Giving the rich the best seat in the house reveals partiality. That partiality was the result of evil thinking on the part of James’ readers. What kind of evil thoughts might be behind this favoritism?
- The rich person might help with some of my needs.
- Our church could be nicer or do more with this rich person’s money.
- This person is rich because God has blessed them, so they’re probably spiritual.
- The poor person will probably try to drain our church’s already limited resources.
- The poor person might ask me to help them, and use up my limited time and money.
- The poor person probably got that way because they are lazy and wicked.
So our partiality reveals that we sit in judgment of people and that our thinking is evil. We want a church full of nice, low-maintenance Christians whose ability to contribute equals or exceeds what they expect from the church. But the gospel is for every creature and every believer who is not in open sin should receive a warm welcome from the Body of Christ.
How’s It Going?
- How do you respond to visitors to your church?
- Are you happier to see those who look like their well off?
- How do you react when someone who is obviously poor drops in? Do you roll out the red carpet for them?
Review and summarize what you’ve learned from studying James, chapter one. Double check to see if you are applying the lessons God has taught you. Also, read James 2:5-9 in preparation for Monday’s study.