In James chapter one, we learned why, as Christians, we are still tempted to sin and how to keep ourselves from that temptation. In James chapter two the Apostle goes a little further in expressing how, as Christians, we can set ourselves apart from the world. Once again, keep in mind that James is talking to first century Christian Jews. So he is addressing first century problems that might seem strange to us but were a regular occurrence back then.
The cultural norms of the first century were to show partiality to the powerful and wealthy. One of the ways this preference was shown was to give them the best seats in the synagogue on the Sabbath. If someone of lower stature happened to be sitting in those seats, they would be asked to move. Or, as in James’ example, they would be treated as if they did not matter, when in fact it was the poor whom God favoured, by blessing them with an extra measure of faith. James reminds us that when we show favouritism to someone (at the expense of someone else), we sin and are, by our actions, guilty of judging others.
While we might think that this type of favouritism doesn’t exist in the church today, we would be wrong. I have seen leaders in my church cater to the wealthy by favouring them over those less fortunate. In some cases the results were disastrous, and in others it was hurtful. Nothing good ever comes of showing favouritism to the rich and powerful.
For example, Christians have a horrible habit of placing preachers on pedestals, especially celebrity preachers. They think they can do no wrong and then one of them falls into sin, and the results for the church are devastating. We do it with musicians, authors, and actors as well. And don’t even get me started on those who preach the prosperity gospel. According to them if you aren’t rich, you aren’t blessed. But they take it even further and suggest that if you are sick, you have done something to lose God’s blessing. This is false teaching. According to James, they will be judged with the same mercy they have shown others.
When you are at church this week check your thoughts and your actions. Everyone is equal in the Lord. No one is better than anyone else: not the Pope, not your Pastor, the Elders or those who teach. In Christ Jesus, we are all the same. It’s one thing to treat someone with respect (like the elderly) it’s another thing entirely when favouring someone because of their wealth or status. So treat everyone you meet as if you were meeting Jesus himself.
Faith that works does not place anyone on a pedestal.