CONFLICTING FAVORITISM

“But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the good name by which you have been called” (James 2:6-7)?

Knowing that God has chosen the poor (v.5), James zeros in with three indicting questions (vs. 5-7). That the answer to each one is “yes” highlights the conflicting nature of showing favoritism toward the rich, the very ones who oppress them and slander the name of Jesus. For the faith community to mirror the tendencies of society, pandering and giving preference to those holding wealth, who see themselves as exclusive and desire to be exclusively treated, and allowing to go unchecked the arrogance of exceptionalism, is not only a contradiction to the equality of kingdom life we are to hold forth, but is a perpetuation of behaviors that invite the judgment of God upon both the rich, and those who show them favor (v.9).

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A PROVEN LISTENER

“Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters: did God not choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him” (James 2:5)?

When found in its imperative form, the word “listen” is intended to capture the reader’s attention, to make one sit-up and take notice. Properly understood, to “listen” entails considerably more than just hearing and learning. From a biblical perspective, it is a three part process—attention, absorption, and action. When enacted in daily life, only then is our listening proved out.

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SHAMEFUL SPECIAL ATTENTION

“Have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?” (James 2:4).

James’ has either observed, or heard about, some disturbing behavior within the messianic community; that special attention is being given to the rich at the expense of the poor (2:2-3). Instead of identifying with the glorious Lord Jesus Christ (2:1), who himself emerged from, and identified with the poor, they have accommodated and shown favoritism toward those who ostentatiously display the very things that stand in opposition to the kingdom of God, and lead to death (1:10). James’ desire is that the faith community might be shamed to repentance, embracing behaviors that bear testimony to the equality of all men, having been created in the image of God.

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FAITH AND FAVORITES

“My brothers and sisters, do no hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism” (James 2:1).

Avoiding favoritism is, certainly, not a new teaching being introduced by James. Within the wisdom literature, it is written, “To show partiality is not good” (Pr. 28:21). Moses noted that partiality is a perversion of the justice God is seeking to make known to the world through his people (Lev.19:15). Even in regard to salvation, Peter would state that God is not one to show partiality (Acts 10:34). Favoritism is a profound contradiction to pure and undefiled religion, as described in 1:27,  and inconsistent with the advantaged position God has ascribed to the poor (1:9). It is the poor in spirit that hold the blessed and destined advantage (Mt.5:4).

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DISCOVERING TRUE BLISS

“But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:32).

The culture has led us to believe that the state of extreme happiness, known as bliss, is to be found in marriage; that singleness is brokenness or somehow less complete. True bliss, however, is realized not in marriage or being unmarried, but in a single-minded devotion to the Lord. Our relationship status is secondary to serving Him.

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HOLDING OUT


“holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain” (Philippians 2:16).

Each day’s challenge is to live with a view of what is coming; that there will be an ultimate verdict on the life we have lived. Knowing that the measuring stick will be those things of eternal value, Paul’s choice is to reserve glory for the day it actually matters. Short-term benefits and momentary pleasures are poor substitutes for the offerings of Kingdom life.

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WHAT GOES AROUND…

“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart rejoice when he stumbles” (Proverbs 24:17).

Life has its way of humbling us all and leveling the playing field. The person who understands this possesses the wisdom to be humbled even in success and victory; never gloating and crowing like a rooster in the favorable circumstances of the present moment; recognizing that after pride comes disgrace (Prov. 11:2). The exaltation to be desired comes not from our accomplishments, nor the favorable opinions of others, but from the Lord, and only to those who have humbled themselves (1Peter 5:6). In the circle of life, what goes around comes around.

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PURE RELIGION

“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27).

Pureundefiled, and unstained capture what is to be the distinction between our relationship to God, as opposed to a relationship with the world and its corrupting views. That some harbor anger, bitterness, envy, selfish ambition, and are tempted toward violent and forceful efforts to bring about social disruption, reflects a profane perspective toward life, perverted by a debased spirit of secularism. Instead of preoccupying ourselves with destructive attitudes, God’s people are to occupy themselves with constructive activities toward the “least of these” (Mt.25:40).

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A HEART FOR THE HELPLESS

“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27).

The socio-economic reality of the ancient world could be easily divided between oppressed and oppressor. You were either a cog within the machinery of oppression, or you were its victim. Among the oppressed, however, orphans and widows stood representative of the most vulnerable. These have always been near the heart of God (Ex. 22:22-23; Ps.68:5; Is.1:17) and, as such, were those with whom Jesus most closely identified (Mt.25:36-40). Having a heart for the helpless isn’t to be understood as an expression of love that, in our present generation, many have sought to redefine as an accommodation and acquiescence to the incessant whininess of the narcissistically self-consumed, or the politically motivated special interest groups, who create their own distress and trauma over such things as the failure of society to use appropriate gender pronouns. To “play along” with the madness of the delusional, for the sake of political correctness, is a pretentious and ignoble pursuit; stealing away the compassion and advocacy to which the truly impoverished are entitled under the royal law (2:8).

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A PLEASURABLE DECEPTION

“If anyone thinks himself to be religious, yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26).

The word “deceives” was originally associated with enjoying oneself, and to living pleasurably. As such, the one who fails to bridle his tongue, has acted intentionally to satisfy the desires of his own heart; conceding to the emotions of the present conflict. It points back to 1:13-15, and the premise that you, alone, not God, determine the response to any circumstance. The refusal to bridle the tongue, while cloaking oneself in religion, is an idle, fruitless, powerless and, thus, worthless contribution to the justice, peace, and in-breaking of the kingdom that God’s people are to make known to the world.

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