The first section of James we see favouritism being addressed. There was an issue in the church where the rich was being honoured over the poor, given a place of distinction simply because of their outward appearance. James says in verse 4 that when these distinctions are made, those making them become judges with evil motives.
Showing partiality or favouritism is sinful and fleshly. It doesn’t have any place in the body of Christ.
In verse 5 it says that God chose the poor to be rich in faith and heirs to the kingdom. We are to see how God sees. He doesn’t honour or uplift the proud. In God’s kingdom, He honours and uses the poor, humble and weak.
We are not to show favouritism because it goes against God’s character. He doesn’t show partiality but rather He says we are all equally favoured in Christ. He has made all of Himself available to all people – both Jew and Gentile – through Jesus. His desire is that all would come to know Him.
In Romans 2 it talks about this vs 9-11
“There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also to the Greek, but glory and honour and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek, there is no partiality with God.”
“I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.
Gal 3: 26-29 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.
Through Christ, we are one in God. One is not better than another, as Galatians says. And so with this in mind, we are to love one another generously and equally as He does to us. Not lifting up someone above another but honouring all. We can be quick to judge based on the outward but God looks at the inward and He is pleased with those who are poor in spirit, acknowledging their need for Him. We can also be quick to lift up those things that world lifts up. To treasure the earthly instead of the eternal. We need the mind of Christ to see correctly.
Here is maybe a silly example but it’s one that came to mind. If Justin Bieber were to come to Bible School, would we honour him more than another student? Would Justin receive the Guest Lecturer Suite, Bistro type meals every day, the best table in the Main Hall with a view, a free Pump House tab and other perks, simply because he is a celebrity? And would we be so distracted by Justin, pampering him, making sure he is comfortable and cared for to the max, that we disregard other students in the process? I certainly hope not! And though Justin coming to Bible School might be far fetched, this doesn’t mean that the temptation for favouritism can’t easily sneak into our hearts in more subtle ways. As I considered these verses it was a challenging word. Am I consistent in my love for others or do I withhold love, grace, service, time or friendship to some because I don’t think they are “worthy” enough? Are we worthy of God’s love? No, but He poured Himself out for us. He loved us when we were yet sinners. We are called to love and to see people as He does- equally valued and loved, image bearers of God.
As we have received, we must extend to others. As I have received mercy, I must extend mercy which James talks about in verse 13.
Carrying on, in next section James is addressing faith in action. We are called to an active, productive, useful, and living faith.
Faith is not giving lip service to God. James says that if we see someone in need and just give them nice words that is a useless and a dead faith. But as we believe God for who He says He is and obey His Word, this allows Him to be in action through our lives. As we choose to love one another, our faith will be displayed.
The examples used for this living, active faith in this chapter are Abraham and Rahab. Along with being mentioned in the book of James for their faith, the author of Hebrews also gives them commendation:
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.” He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.
- Abraham believed God
- Abraham obeyed God
- And as a result, Abraham experienced God.
By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.
Rahab showed faith by believing the God of the Hebrew spies. She exercised that faith in action by hiding the spies and concealing their whereabouts, even though it could have put her own life in danger. The result was her and her family being saved.
Like God providing a ram for Abraham and saving Rahab and her family, as we depend on God and obey Him, our faith is put into action and He is able to accomplish His works through us. James says that believing in God is good, but even the demons believe in God. With our belief, there needs to be the steps of obedience, dependence and surrender. As we do, this active faith in Him will release Him to do His work in and through us. Transformation will take place and His glory being revealed through our lives. Talking about Abraham James 2:22 it says “as a result of the works, faith was perfected”. Perfected means to “carry through to the end” or “to complete”. As our faith is put into action, it is proved true and genuine. Living faith looks like a working faith with good works.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
So to summarize, He has prepared good works for us to walk in. And we are to be zealous for these good works, as people who are set apart for Him. Our faith is to be put into action through obedience and dependence, that it would be living and useful and that we would be a people who display His holiness and character.
And as reminded from the first section, let us be on guard against favouritism and be quick to treasure that which God treasures and to love one another as He loves.
By Rachel Zinser