Real radical | How to Not Play Favourites
This week, we continue our ‘Real Radical’ series with a look at the Book of James and his encouragement to his readers about taking in and living out the Word of God. Persecution has a way of making God’s people see nothing but themselves. But the ‘real radical’ approach illustrated in the Bible shows how Christians are still called to live out the Word of God even when facing difficulties. In Chapter 1, James laid the foundation principles of working out and walking out our faith such as taming the tongue, caring for the needy and being separated to God.
Now in Chapter 2, he continues by focusing on favouritism, making it clear that when it comes to partiality and favouritism, there is no place for it in the church. James 2:2-4 offers a graphic illustration of the problem: two men come into a Christian gathering – one wearing finery and one in filthy rags. The rich man is given a “good seat” while the poor man is told “…if you must sit, sit on the floor.” (Phillips paraphrase). He is not only treated as inferior to the rich man, but even worse by the Christian who should have welcomed him.
James insists that, “You cannot show partiality - You have to treat everyone the same - My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism.” James 2:1 NIV – and this principle is still applicable today. The modern man is very self-absorbed and a great deal of time, we show favouritism to people who are more like us. Employers show favouritism based on address; people show favouritism to those with more money or those who dress better. Favouritism in the form of racial and other biases stain the pages of human history, but it should not even remotely exist in the Church.
If you judge a case in favour of your friend when they are wrong, then that is favouritism and there is no place for it in the Church. Let us look at why:
1. Favouritism violates belief in Jesus
Deuteronomy 10:17 NIV says it clearly: “For the Lord your God … shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.” God ignores national differences as evidenced by Jewish Peter being sent to preach to the Gentile Cornelius (Acts 10:34). God also ignores social differences between masters and slaves (Ephesians 6:9).
His plan for our lives is based on His grace …“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV. God saves us and interacts with us completely on the basis of the work of Christ on the cross and not because of anything that we are or have.
2. Favouritism is a sin
Favouritism is a sin for a number of reasons:
a. It’s inconsistent with God’s character.God looks at the heart but favouritism is based on what we perceive a person can do for us.
b. It’s inconsistent with Scripture. - James 2:8 says: “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbour as yourself,” you are doing right.” We are all created in the image and likeness of God and we should love our brother based on that truth alone.
c. It is just as serious a sin as adultery and murder. - James 2:10 says “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” When it comes to favouritism, we tend to believe it is just a small thing. But God considers it is as big a thing as murder.
d. God will judge sin. – “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgement.” James 2:12-13 NIV. The cure for passing judgement on others is to remember that we must all face judgement ourselves.
James was not trying to be harsh, but he was pointing the church to the solution to the sin of favouritism. This starts with actionable faith. James asks the church, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith, but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?” James 2:14 NIV.
Real faith is not just something you say, feel, think or believe. “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” – James 2:19 NIV. Real faith is something you do! Something happens to us when we action our faith. The truth of God comes alive in us, changes us and changes those around us.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart... 39 And the second is like it: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Matthew 22: 37 – 39 NIV. If we live according to this commandment, then favouritism would have no room to prosper in our assembly. As we serve others, we start to realise that rich or poor, we are all the same. Faith and action go hand in hand. Let’s start today to demonstrate this.