James 2:1-13 (Week 3 – Faith in Action Series)
Jason White



In this passage, James shows us that showing favoritism and discrimination are inconsistent with who we are as new creations in Christ. As we live out our faith, it will lead to actions that show love to all people.







Sermon Audio Transcript
So about 10 years ago or so, the movie 42 came out wasn't about dominoes or the 42 domino game, it was about Jackie Robinson, of course, becoming the first African American to play major league baseball in 1947. I didn't see it when it originally came out. Honestly, I didn't really see it until sometime over the last year or so for some reason. And I gotta admit, it was hard to watch. It's really difficult to watch him go through all of the things that he experienced becoming the first African American to play major league, baseball, the things that he had to suffer through as he was attempting to break through the color barrier. At the time, it was hard to watch him being called some of the names that he was called just because of having a different skin color, it was hard to watch pitchers throwing it his head trying to injure him and take him out to keep him from playing the game, it was difficult to watch him have to go shower in a completely separate area because of the color of his skin, it was hard to watch him receive death threats, because people didn't want him because of the color of his skin, playing major league baseball, I watch movies like that, and it makes me deeply angry inside makes me super frustrated that he was treated that way. And there were a lot of people throughout history who have been treated in similar ways to that and gone through, of course, much more than I've ever had to go through. And probably a lot of you as well. I know what upsets and makes a lot of you really angry too, because it's I mean, it's just really not right, it's hard to see these things happen. You hate to see people treated unfairly and unjustly, especially because of just external appearances, external factors. When we see that kind of thing, it just makes us angry. Also makes us angry when we experienced those kinds of things in our own life. And while we may not have experienced it, to the extent that someone like Jackie Robinson experienced it, and many others, we've all been treated unfairly, we've all been probably discriminated against in some way, shape, or form. And when it affects us personally, of course, that hurts to hurts when you're judged based on your appearance or for some external factor, you know, hurts even more if you're a parent, and you see it happen to one of your kids. I mean, it just brings the claws out, right. I mean, we've all seen moms who are deeply loving, caring, sensitive, supporting souls who all of a sudden turn into that Mama Bear whenever their kids are treated unfairly or unjustly in some way. And we didn't even know they had an enemy, right. But all of a sudden it was there because you're attacking one of their kids and treating them unfairly or discriminating against them in some particular way, shape or form. No one likes it when someone that they love are being unfairly treated when other people are shown favoritism, or we experienced that in our own lives, but the thing is, when I know this to be true in my own life, that there have been times in my past where I've treated people differently because of their skin color. That I've treated people differently because of their socioeconomic status, that I've treated people differently because of the way that they dress or because of certain piercings or types of tattoos that they had. I've treated people differently because they belong to a certain political party and on and on and on and on. I hate that feels yucky, even just mentioning it. But I wonder how many of you have experienced the same thing. Probably all of us have discriminated against people in some way, shape, or form in the past that we're all not proud of. And unfortunately, that's also the kind of thing that can creep its way into the church. And a whole church can begin to discriminate against certain groups of people and show favoritism towards others. And apparently, that was the kind of thing that was happening to the gatherings to the people that James was writing this New Testament letter to because it comes right out the gate in the first verse of chapter one and look what he says my brothers and sisters believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. It doesn't get too much more direct than that if you're a brother and sister in Christ, if you've put your faith and trust in Him, and your heart has been regenerated, where you're now in union with Him, and they made a new creation in him, and united together as a family, we must not show favoritism. The word translated favoritism here in the original Greek literally means receiving the face. If you were to translate it literally, that's what it would say it means to make judgments about people based on their external appearance. The other thing to note here is that this word that he used is actually plural. In Greek, it means do not show acts of favoritism, if you're a brother or sister in Christ. In other words, even though James is going to use a certain example of discrimination against the poor, and in showing favoritism to the rich, what he's getting at is much broader than that James is saying that Christians are not to make decisions about anyone based on any external factor whatsoever, whether it's the way that they dress, or the color of their skin, or they're rich or poor, or they're pretty, you're not so pretty, or they're thin or not so thin or anything, for that matter. It is inconsistent with who we are in Christ, to discriminate against someone and show favoritism towards others based on external factors. As James goes on, in verses two through four, he gives this example that I just referenced earlier, about showing favoritism to the rich over the poor, most likely, because this was the kind of thing that was happening in the congregations of those that he was writing to look what he says, suppose a man comes into your meeting, wearing a gold ring and find clothes and a poor man, and filthy old clothes also comes in, if you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes, and say, here's a good seat for you. But you say to the poor man, you stand there, or better yet sit on the floor by my feet, have you not discriminated among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Now, what does that mean exactly to have discriminated among ourselves, if we show favoritism towards some people over others? I think it's helpful to know what the Apostle Paul and other writers of Scripture wrote about this thing as well. For example, in Galatians, three, verses 26 through 28, Paul says so in Christ, in your union with Him, you are all children of God through faith for you, all of you were baptized into Christ and have closed yourselves with Christ. Listen to this, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Paul says, we're all one. If the church then treat anyone differently, because they dress differently, or have a different skin color, or for some other reason, we're discriminating among ourselves against ourselves, because we're all now one in Christ. We're all brothers and sisters who are made equals, and we're united together as one. So to discriminate over one over another is to discriminate among ourselves who are all now united together as one people? What kind of sense does that make? No one's better than any other based on these kinds of things that he's bringing up. So James says, Don't do that. Don't become judges with evil thoughts. Because that kind of thinking doesn't of course, come from the Lord. He's not producing that behavior in those thoughts in you that comes from the evil one who's out to steal, kill, and destroy and divide the church and defied people to keep people from coming to know Jesus, because of us discriminating against some people and showing favoritism to others.So James, first of all, says this is no longer part of who you are. But now he gives some pretty pragmatic reasons for them, to also not show favoritism based on some things that were going on in their world. Look at what he says in verses five in the first part of verse six. He says, Listen, my dear brothers and sisters has got not chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith, and to inherit the kingdom he promised to those who love him, but you he says have dishonored the poor. In other words, you've treated them materially. Pour as if they really are poor, when in fact, if they're in Christ, they aren't poor at all. They're extremely and abundantly rich, if they are in Christ, I have a really good friend of mine who works for Edward Jones. He's an investment planner. And he deals with a number of people with a lot of different levels of money, some with really deep pockets, and some with shallow pockets. And they all look differently. And he told me one time, Jason, you would never be able to pick some of the richest people in the world out just based on their external appearances. You couldn't pick them out of a lineup. He said, there are some people that are walking around in overalls, and they drive old used beat up pickup trucks and look like they have no money whatsoever in the world. And they are the people that have the deepest pockets. They are the ones that are so rich, you just can't tell so out of their external appearance, and James here is saying the same thing is true about those who are financially poor, but no Christ, they may appear to be the poorest people walking around town. But if they're in Christ, they're actually the richest people walking around because they have an inheritance in the kingdom of God. So James says you're dishonouring the poor by showing favoritism to the rich in this world, because the poor are way richer, if you pull back the curtain and look behind the scenes anyway. Just doesn't make any sense. James is saying to honor someone who is rich in this world over the poor and Christ, because they're spiritually wealthy, and they have a far greater blessing in the future. Anyway. So this is the first argument that he gives after mentioning what he did earlier, he has two other reasons that he's going to get to the next one is found in verse six. As he continues, he says, is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? What's that all about? I mean, we live far removed from this culture, 2000 years or so. But one of the things that was going on in the Middle East during the first century, is that there was a small group of wealthy landowners, who just continued to accumulate more and more land and power and kind of forced others from their land, by taking them to court and forcing them using their influence in the courts to forfeit their land. And then they would take over it. So the rich just kept getting richer and having more power, and the poor just kept getting poor and having less power. And the way that James writes, what he does here leads a lot of commentators to believe that most of those that he's writing to here, fall into that category, where the rich are exploiting them, and using their wealth to influence them in the courts to forfeit their land. And so James says, Why would you show favoritism to the rich, who are just exploiting you and dragging you into court to take your land anyway? Just doesn't pragmatically make any sense other than the theological reasons that I mentioned a second ago? That's the second reason he's got one more in verse seven. He also says, are they not the ones who are blaspheming, the noble name of Him whom you belong to? You belong to Jesus Christ, the Lord of Lords and the King of kings? And evidently, not only were the rich exploiting them, and dragging them into court, but they were also blaspheming, the name of Jesus whom they belong to. So James says, What sense does that make to show favoritism to them anyway? So again, James gives three kind of pragmatic reasons that apply to them specifically in this particular day and age. But again, he had also given them the theological reason, right? It's just not consistent. It's inconsistent, to treat people that way. If you're in Christ, it's no longer who you are, it was who you were, but you become a new creation in Christ is no longer who you are. And now, after pointing this out, he finally gets around to showing them the kind of behavior that is in line with who they are in Christ. Now, look at verse eight. He says, If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, love your neighbor as yourself. You were doing right. In other words, hey, that kind of behavior, the kind of action that is now consistent with your faith and the new creation that you've become in Christ is this to show and demonstrate love in a practical way to your neighbor? This is the royal law. This is what even Jesus talked about in Matthew 2239 When he said to love your neighbor as yourself Paul even talks about this royal law as being the fulfillment listen to this, of the entire law, the entire law, the fulfillment of the royal law, loving your neighbor as yourself. He mentions it in a few different places. I'm not gonna read them all. But let me just mention to Romans 13, verse eight, he says, Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another. For whoever loves others has fulfilled the law, the commandments You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder shall not steal, you shall not covet and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command, love your neighbor as yourself. He says Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore Love is the fulfillment of the law. Galatians five, he says you my brothers and sisters, were called to be free, but do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh rather serve one another humbly in what love for the entire law is fulfilled and keeping this one command Love your neighbor as yourself. This is the royal Allah to keep to love your neighbor as yourself. And remember, Jesus even brought up and taught us who our neighbor is yet the rich ruler who was going okay, who exactly is my neighbor, then Jesus, right, and he tells the parable of the Good Samaritan and we find out well, our neighbor really is anyone and anyone, regardless of their ethnic background, or their skin color, or socioeconomic status, where they dress or whatever. And to show and demonstrate love for them is to meet their needs to care for them. Practical Ways. So when we live this way, where we're demonstrating love to everyone around us, then we can be sure that we are walking by the Spirit in those moments there. We're walking in faith and dependence on Christ, that we're keeping our eyes fixed on Him, knowing that he's leading us into that kind of behavior and those kinds of actions, because those are the kinds of behaviors and actions that are consistent with who we become as new creations in Christ. But James says, if you're not living this way, then that's evidence that you're living in sin, you're not walking in the Spirit, you're walking in the flesh, look at what he says in verse nine. But if you show favoritism you sin. See, that's where I got it from. It's right there in the Bible right there. If you show favoritism you sin and are convicted by the law, as law breakers for whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said You shall not commit adultery also said you shall not murder. So if you do not commit adultery, but you do commit murder, you have become a law breaker. It can be easy to kind of think that we're doing okay, that we're really living all right. We're not really living in sin, if we aren't really doing too many big, bad things. We're not committing adultery, we're not murdering someone. I mean, a lot of these things that he's just kind of mentioned here, then we think I'm doing fine. I'm doing all right, right, living the way that I'm supposed to. But James reminds us that if we're acting in any way that is inconsistent with who we now are in Christ, and we're walking in sin, we're walking in our flesh in those moments in showing favoritism. And discriminating against other people based on external factors, he says is sin. We need to recognize that we need to allow Jesus to guide us into the kind of behavior and actions that line up with who we now are in Christ. At my previous church, I had a church member who would often demonstrate this when he had the opportunity to speak at different churches. He had started a soup kitchen ministry in downtown Austin area. ministry to the homeless and serve them for a number of years still does, Ibelieve to this day, and when he would get invited to speak about this ministry at churches sometimes even preach in churches, what he would do is he would dress up as someone who was homeless, he would alter his appearance in such a way that it really did look like he was homeless, and he would get there early enough to be the first one at the church that he was going to speak at. And he would often sit out on the sidewalk with a few of his things, making it look like he had spent the night there all to see how people treated him when they were walking into the church service that day. Of course, everybody thought he He was homeless and would just walk right past him often or treat them in various different ways. And then they would come into the service. And all of a sudden when the singing finished and the plates had been passed, and it became time for the message, the homeless guy that had been outside and everybody had walked past walks all the way down the aisle and up onto the stage and behind the podium and gets ready to preach God's word. And of course, everybody's stunned, and then all that that's who this was in that moment, but there's always a lot of them who want to crawl underneath their pews, or the seats that they're sitting in because of how they treated him talked to him or just completely ignored him on their way in. He wanted them to see that showing favoritism or discriminating against others, based on external factors is indeed sin. He wanted them to recognize it and begin allowing Jesus to guide them into the kind of behavior and actions that line up with now who they are in Christ. This is what James is getting at here in verses nine through 11. And I think even as he finishes up in verses 12 and 13, of this section, he says beginning and 12, speak, and act ven as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful Mercy triumphs over judgment. So, as we look at Scripture, and we study it in its entirety, and you begin to put some things together, you see that there are a few different judgments at the end of time. One of those particular judgments is the great white throne judgment. You can read about that in Revelation chapter 20. And it's the separation of the sheep and the goats where unbelievers are judged and declared guilty before God because of sin and refusal to accept God's free grace that is offered to everyone. So Christians, those of us who have put their faith and trust in Jesus, and experienced that regeneration in our hearts and that new birth, and have been adopted together into his family are not judged at the Great White Throne Judgment. It's not a judgment for you. This is a judgment for on believers. But there is another judgment that's talked about throughout scripture, and it's called the beyma seat of Christ or the judgment seat of Christ. Here's how Paul Enns defines it in the moody Handbook of theology. He says, the judgment seat of Christ as referenced in Romans and First Corinthians and Second Corinthians does not denote a judgment concerning eternal destiny, but rather rewarding Church Age believers. The term judgment seat, which in Greek is beyma, is taken from the Grecian games where successful athletes were rewarded for victory and athletic contest. Paul use that figure to denote the giving of rewards to Church Age believers, the purpose of the judgment seat will be recompense for the deeds done in the body, the believers works will be examined, whether done by self effort, or done by God through the individual rewards will then be given for the works that Jesus does through the believer. So here's the thing, we tend to see the word judgment, and we think negative, we think condemnation, right? If we're going to be judged in some way. But really, Paul, of course, tells us in Romans eight that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. The judgment is not negative. The judgment that believers face is positive. It's highlighting the work of Jesus through us as believers as the instruments in his hands. So James says in verse 12, speak and act as those who are going to be judged, you will be judged one day standing at the Bema Seat of Christ, not in a negative way, but in a way that's going to highlight the works that Jesus did in you, and through you works that don't show favoritism and discriminate against others, but those that love others the way that you want to be treated as your self, right. He says again, that those who are going to be judged by any references this law that gives freedom. Now, if you were here a few weeks ago, you remember we already talked about that in chapter one. James had mentioned this same law that gives freedom and he used it in this, this illustration where he's talking about this, you know, when you're speaking and acting in certain ways, it's like you look in a mirror, and then you walk away and forget who you are. But then those who look intently into the law of freedom, then those are the ones who are going to stay true to acting out in the way that God had created them and given them a new heart that's consistent with that new heart. This law that gives freedom as a reflection of the new heart that we are given when we are re generated when we're following through and behavior and actions in the ways that God has aligned us with this new heart, this New Covenant heart that He's given us to law of freedom, it's not a law of man, I have to go do all of these things and check it off my list to be better with God or serve or feel better about myself, or all of those things, or I can't do this. And I can't do that. It's all the leads to freedom and experiencing the life that we have in Christ. Jeremiah 31, says that God writes the law on our hearts, as new covenant believers, he gives us new nature and a heart that now lines up with his character in his ways. And again, when you and I are walking by the Spirit, than his character in his ways that are written on our hearts are going to come through us in action. And in certain kinds of behaviors, and through the speech that we share with others. And at the Bema Seat, God is going to highlight his work in us and through us in the individual way that he did that through you, and through you, through you, and you and me, and others, because it's going to look differently through each and every single one of us. So then, when you come back again, and apply this to what James is saying, then specifically here, though, he's talking about this in the context, again, of not showing favoritism. So he's saying speak and act right towards all of those who are around you, in ways that don't show favoritism and don't discriminate. Because the way that God is going to judge you, at some point in time will be based not on those things, because those things are going to be burned up. And those were done in the flesh. So it's not gonna gonna be sitting there and experiencing condemnation for those things. But you're gonna miss out on what Jesus would have done in you and through you anyway, in his reflection of the new heart that he's giving you. So don't miss out on the opportunity for Jesus to highlight the work that he did in you and through you and receive all the glory and honor in heaven one day. This is what I think that he's talking about in this particular section here. So when we look again, at this as a whole, we have to think okay, this is what James was addressing in many of the congregations that maybe he was writing to, and the individual people that lived in the car were part of the congregation's there. And so we go, Well, you know what, that still translates to us today? 2000 years later, we must look at our own lives then and say, Is there any evidence that I'm showing favoritism over some people over others based on external appearances? Or that I'm discriminating against some people based on those kinds of things? And to go, Lord, would you please reveal those things to me so that we can come before Him and ask Him to guide us in ways that will be consistent once again, with the new heart, that He's given us his new creations in Christ, we must look at ourselves as the collective church, brothers and sisters in Christ and say, if certain people have a different skin color, or a different ethnicity, or whether they're rich or poor, or they're dressed a certain way, or they're Christians are not Christians, or any of those kinds of things, how are they received? How do we welcome them in Is there a place for them to belong and to maybe not believe and to ask challenging questions and to even still have behaviors that don't line up with what we would hope someone would act in our minutes.And as Jesus does the work of exposing those things, again, we bring those things before Him and thank Him for the complete forgiveness that we have in Christ, and ask him to begin to do the work of uniting us together to be a church who shows no discrimination and no favoritism based on external appearances. Because Jesus gave His life for us and put his life in us to be able to live his life through us in ways that express love and value to all those who are created in His image. And it's not just when they walk in here, but it's also when he sends us out as the church out there to work. in us and through us to show no favoritism and discrimination to our neighbors and those in the workplace and those that we love and serve outside of here, and even to fight for justice among those who are being discriminated against as well. So we make ourselves available. Jesus, you live in me, how do you want to work in me and through me in this area, that your revealing truth to us in this moment today? And as we ask that question, we're going to pray and ask him to continue to deal with us in that area, and lead us to respond in ways that he's leading us to respond.