Favoritism is a serious sin.
One reason according to James is because when you show favoritism, ‘you become judges with evil motives.’
In other words, when you show favoritism you are setting yourself up in God’s place as a judge.
The Bible says there is only one Lawgiver and judge, but when you make decisions about people based on external factors alone, you are saying, I am judge. I get to make the call here, who deserves kindness and who does not.
And you are not just a judge, James says you are a judge with evil motives.
That word for evil is the strongest word James could have chosen. Your motives are not just wrong, or even evil, your motives are actively wicked. You are being motivated by the same things that motivate the world.
Now stop here.
I know some of you may be thinking I don’t have a problem with favoritism to the rich.
But really, think about this, what is at the root of this kind of favoritism? Why show favoritism to the rich? What’s at the root of that? You are looking to that person for what you can get out of them. I will be kind to the rich person because he can give me something. But I will treat the poor person with disdain because he’s got nothing for me.
That’s why this verse is so convicting.
You look at it at first and you think what’s this got to do with me, I don’t really care about a person’s money but really the problem is deeper than that, and it’s a problem we all struggle with:
When you respond to people on the basis of what they can do for you, you are being motivated by worldly values.
This is not about respect, this is not about friendship, this is about what’s in it for me?
That’s how the world makes evaluations about people.
And that’s evil.
To live as the world lives is not just unwise or a poor decision, it’s wicked. We’re so in to minimizing our sins and our actions. C’mon it’s not that big of deal. James you are going overboard. What’s so wrong with looking out for yourself? It’s not that bad.
Don’t fool yourself about sin. Don’t fool yourself about worldliness. Don’t rationalize your sin, don’t try to put a spin on why you are preferring the rich over the poor, your motivation is absolutely evil. God says when you think about life from a selfish perspective, when you make an idol out of this world and what it has to offer, and when you become proud and think you have the right to make these judgments, that’s not just a mistake, that’s not just a minor little problem, that’s not just a faux paus, that is not just inconsiderate, that is evil. That’s evil.
Faith and favoritism do not mix.
We are involved in a battle. And one of the enemies we fight is the world. We must resist its influence. Just because we are a church, just because we have gathered together, just because we say our faith is in the Lord Jesus doesn’t mean we automatically are not going to be affected by the world’s values.
Here James is writing to a group of professing Christians and he says you are doing this and this is wrong, you have evil motives. You are coming to church, you are listening to sermons, but your heart is wrong, and your motives are evil. That means as individuals and a church we have to do some serious self-evaluation. We can’t just assume that because we wear our suits and dresses and look nice on Sunday that we are thinking about things the way God does.
We need to ask ourselves some questions.
As a church what really is determining our decisions and setting our vision? Is it God and His Word or is it the world and it’s agenda?
It’s easy to say that our faith is in the glorious Lord Jesus Christ and that we are living for the world to come, but the proof is in the pudding. If you asked the people receiving this letter if they went to church to worship God, I’m confident they would have said yes. If you asked them where their faith and confidence was, I’m confident they would have said it was in Jesus Christ. But James says here that their actions were saying otherwise. They were saying with their lips that their faith was in Christ, but they were favoring the rich, which proved that they were just blowing smoke. It’s possible for us as a church to be going through the motions saying all the right things when in reality the world is setting our agenda. We don’t want to be a church that is wavering, making distinctions among ourselves, facing both ways. This church is about Christ and His glory. That means we’ve got to set the world’s wisdom aside.
To get more specific, the church is made up of individuals, and we as a church aren’t going to set the world’s wisdom aside, unless we as individuals war against it.
We need to each ask ourselves, what really is most important to us: Jesus Christ or our own selfish desires?
Why do we do what we do? One test is how we treat people. That’s the test James gives us here.
Faith in the glorious Lord Jesus Christ is incompatible with personal favoritism. In other words the faith is incompatible with evaluating people on the basis of externals alone, and it is incompatible with selfish motivations.
Do we love people primarily because of what they can give us? Do we only make friends with the people who are easy?
The fact that God forbids favoritism tells us something about God. God is concerned about your attitude. There are certain attitudes that are absolutely incompatible with true authentic Christianity. Your faith in Christ is to affect everything about you. Sometimes people relegate their faith in Christ to one little compartment of their lives, one that they bring out on Sunday mornings when they sing their songs and listen to sermons, but James makes it clear here you can’t do that, your faith in Christ has to do with every part of your life, even down to how you treat other people who are different than you are. Your faith in Christ has to do with how you respond to a poor person. Your faith in Christ has to do with how you treat someone whose personality you don’t prefer. Your faith in Christ has to do with how you react to people at work. The unbeliever has a perspective on life and it affects everything about them. We as believers have put our faith in Christ and it should affect everything about us.
We as a church should stand out. When people walk in our doors, and when we go out those doors and interact with unbelievers, they should notice a radical difference in the way that we treat people. We’re to love others the way God loved us. “Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children and walk in love…”(Ephesians 5:1) How did God love us? Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” We were reconciled to God while were His enemies. God did not love us on the basis of anything good in us. If He chose to love only those people who deserved it, guess what, none of us would be loved. Think about the sacrifice that Christ made to save us. If I could somehow take one of you to heaven, you would never want to leave, you would want to stay there forever. What could possibly tempt you to leave? Yet Christ came down. Why? Why would He come to earth? Love. What a sacrifice. “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” We’re to go out and imitate that love in the way we serve one another.
Our lives shouldn’t make sense to the world.
You are sacrificing for that person who hates you? You are showing kindness to the person who can’t give anything back? You are laying down your life for that hurting, needy person? Why? Why would you do something like that? You are loving your enemy? What are you thinking? What do you get out of it?
It’s not about me. That’s the point. It’s about my Savior. I live by a completely different standard. I’m not bound by the world’s wisdom anymore.
The problem with the church today is that it is too normal.
The world looks at us and sees that we are professing Christ, we’re good at that, and we’re good at sticking to our little list of do’s and don’ts but besides that the basic pattern of our lives is not all that different. The world’s agenda is still guiding us.
Real practically, we’ve got to stop looking at people in terms of what can I get from them; and start asking how does Christ want me to view them, and how can I show the love of Christ to them?
“My brethren don’t hold your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism…”