Tell me, do you have a favorite food? What about a favorite store? Favorite color? Favorite brand? Is it okay to have favorites?
Is it okay to show favoritism towards people?
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.
That’s pretty straightforward. What does it mean to show favoritism?
Partiality, prejudice, I’m/we’re better than you. Giving preferential treatment.
Who is James talking to?
Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in 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 say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
What do these two people have in common?
They’re both believers, and that means they’re brothers.
In James’ example, what is being judged?
Who’s more valuable.
Is that right? Why or why not? What’s happening?
Discrimination and judgmentalness. FirstNLR‘s slogan is simple and we live it out, Every Soul Matters To God. I remember a few years ago after the third service while I was cleaning the sanctuary, I saw a United States Senator talking to Pastor Rod. At the same time, Pamela, part of our Deaf Church, was walking towards them, wanting to introduce a Deaf guest to Pastor Rod. In a wonderful example of not showing favoritism, P. Rod didn’t ignore them in order to talk to a powerful individual but spoke with them just as long as he talked to the Senator. I gained a lot of respect for P. Rod that day. Don’t you like people who treat you as equals no matter if you’re rich or poor, popular or not?
Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?
Remember last week when we talked about God’s concern for the widows and orphans? Remember what that says about the heart of God?
But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
What’s happening to the people James is writing to?
They’re being discriminated against and abused.
What are they doing?
The same thing.
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.
Did you notice what James called it?
The royal law. Why?
It’s part of the two greatest commandments. It’s also in the Law God gave Moses in Leviticus 19:18, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”
What does it mean to love your neighbor as yourself?
Having concern for others when it doesn’t benefit me and doing things for their benefit. Anyone remember in John 15:12 where Jesus says how people will be able to tell if we’re Christ-followers? ‘To love others as I’ve loved you, this is how people will know you’re mine, by your love.’
But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.
How is favoritism sin? Have you ever given someone preferential treatment? Why?
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.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.
How many sins do you have to commit to be a sinner?
One. Just one. I want you to look at verse 11, murder and adultery, they have something in common. What is it?
It’s a lack of love. Matthew 22:37-40: Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
All the Law hangs on these two commandments. Look at the 10 Commandments, what’s at the heart of them? Love. It’s all about love. The entire Bible has love as an underlying theme. We were created to share in the love of God, he didn’t need us. In his love, He sent Jesus to reconcile us with Him.
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, Freedom from sin because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Verse 12, what does James mean? Hint, James references the Sermon on the Mount a lot.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2)
It means that God will judge us the way we judge others. He doesn’t play favorites, ever. We serve a merciful God, which is good because none of us deserve it. He also expects us to be merciful.
Look at Matthew 5:7 and 6:14: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
Mercy wins. We have to be merciful because we want God to be merciful. What does this tell us about God’s heart? He wants to forgive and save us. When we don’t love others, we’re running contrary to God’s heart. Romans 3:25-26 is God’s mercy for us in action while His justice is still served.
God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
What are you going to do this week to love others? Is there a grudge you need to let go of, or someone you need to forgive today as you model the heart of God?