My brothers, don’t hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ of glory with partiality. For if a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, comes into your synagogue, and a poor man in filthy clothing also comes in; and you pay special attention to him who wears the fine clothing, and say, “Sit here in a good place;” and you tell the poor man, “Stand there,” or “Sit by my footstool;” haven’t you shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
Listen, my beloved brothers. Didn’t God choose those who are poor in this world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the Kingdom which he promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Don’t the rich oppress you, and personally drag you before the courts? Don’t they blaspheme the honorable name by which you are called?
However, if you fulfill the royal law, according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well. But if you show partiality, you commit sin, being convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law, and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.
So speak, and so do, as men who are to be judged by a law of freedom. For judgment is without mercy to him who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
James extends his thinking on the treatment of the rich and poor in this passage. The world honors the rich; we are to treat both rich and poor the same. This teaching is summed up in the simplicity of, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” What scares me the most in today’s church is that we don’t even know the poor. We’re segregated by a new color—green. We tend to flock to those like us, the same dress, the same thinking, the same economic status. But just as a church is stronger when made up of young and old alike, we are also made stronger when our arms embrace brothers and sisters from all walks of life—poor AND rich. Both are children God calls.
- Do you hold your faith with partiality regarding rich and poor? What about any other reason?
- If you attend a rich church, do you make room for the poor? If you attend a poor church, do you make room for the rich?
- Do you recognize that the poor hold a special place in God’s heart? Would you surrender all your earthly wealth to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom? Do you think you have to be poor to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom?
- How do the rich oppress the poor today?
- Do you practice with simplicity the royal law, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”?
- Fortunately, we are no longer judged under the old law, but by the law of freedom. This law holds two tenants: Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Do you try to tack on any additional requirements to these? If so, why?
- What role should mercy play in our everyday lives?
- Are you glad that we’re judged according to how we show mercy to others or does this terrify you?
It has been my experience in the churches that I’ve been a part of over the years that men and women who are successful in the world are usually looked at as “better Christians” than those who struggle in the world financially. Is it that way where you worship? I believe we need to do something about that. Do you? How can we change a mindset that has literally existed for thousands of years? I believe that living daily with the Holy Spirit is our only hope in correcting this injustice.
Father, forgive me if I’ve ever dishonored the poor. Father, forgive me if I’ve ever looked down my nose at the rich. Help me to practice “love your neighbor” in all instances. Keep constantly before my heart that it is your desire that all hear your call and be saved from destruction. May you lead me to those who have a passion for you whether they wear tattered, salvage-store clothing or an Armani suit. Amen.