The Book of James

Lesson 4 - "The Folly of Favoritism"

by Pastor Frank J. Cuozzo

Pastor Frank Cuozzo

James 2:1-13, “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.”


-Introduction:

James gives us very practical principles for a "faith that works." A "faith that works" shows up in how we treat people. Surveys have shown the number one reason visitors return to a church is they feel welcome. Every church thinks it is friendly because its members are friendly to their friends. However, being friendly to the same people at church every Sunday forms a clique. Few churches are really friendly. This passage from God's Word explains the folly of favoritism. Four things here,


#1) Favoritism is snobbish.

Look again with me at James 2:1-4, “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?”


James writes, My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.” Favoritism is acting like a snob. A snob is someone who wants to associate with people of wealth or social position and has contempt for those he considers his inferiors.


James illustrates snobbery by telling the hypothetical story of two strangers arriving at church at the same time. One of them is a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel—he has expensive jewelry and a newly-pressed $1,000 suit. James is not criticizing this person for being wealthy or dressing up; he is pointing out the snobbery. The second guy is a poor man in vile raiment. His clothes are vile, which means dirty and cheap. When people come to our services, we should look at them as God does. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”


James says the usher shows respect to the man in the nice clothes and says, Sit thou here in a good place. In other words, he brings him to a choice seat at the front of the church, but to the poor man he says, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool, inferring he should stand over in the corner or sit on the floor where no one could see him.


God's Word evaluates this behavior with this question, Are ye not then partial in yourselves?”

meaning they are judging people based on economic status. The truth is today that the wealthy man might be a drug dealer or pimp. Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”


By judging people based on social class, James says that we become judges of evil thoughts. If a judge in a court of law were to make his decision based on how people dressed rather than the facts of the case, everyone would agree such a judge was evil and his decision a gross miscarriage of justice. It is no less evil for us as believers to base our treatment of people on such superficial things as dress, economic status, sex, education, or race. James first tells us favoritism is snobbish and...


#2) Favoritism is silly.

Read with me again James 2:5-7, “Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?”


In case James hasn't convinced us of the folly of favoritism, he writes: Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. This doesn't mean God is partial toward the poor. Romans 2:11 says, “For there is no respect of persons with God.”


However, the poor are generally more open to Christ and the Gospel. Usually the more a person has—whether it is money, education, or status—the more self-sufficient that person feels and the more difficult to see his or her need for Christ. It was true in Jesus' time, and it's still true today. Even in our country, often the more prosperous we become, the more we drift away from God.


To further show how irrational favoritism is, James asks three penetrating questions here.


          -Question #1: Do not rich men oppress you? In James' day many of the rich and powerful were the Sadducees, who were persecuting the church. Unless believers were careful, they could be giving special attention to their own persecutors.


          -Question #2: Don't they draw you before the judgment seats? In NT times it was common for a poor person needing a loan to borrow from a rich person at exorbitant interest rates, such as 50% or more. The lender would then show no mercy if the loan were not paid on time. They could legally take the man, his wife, and children to be sold as slaves, possibly separating them so they would never see each other again. The Jews did this even though God forbade charging interest to fellow Jews in Exodus 22:25.


          -Question #3: Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? This could also refer to the Sadducees who fiercely opposed Jesus while He was on earth and slandered and persecuted the early church. Like James' original readers, we too should be very careful not to give special attention to the persecutors of Christ. Favoritism is snobbish, favoritism is silly, and...


#3) Favoritism is sinful.

Look again with me at James 2:8-11, “If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.”


James continues: If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well. Favoritism is notoriously sinful because it breaks the royal law, the supreme law governing human relationships: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Galatians 5:14 says, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”


James continues: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. Showing favoritism to the elite and disdain for the poor is not just a lack of courtesy or poor manners, it breaks the second greatest commandment of all.


Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-40, “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”


James emphasizes the seriousness of such behavior by writing: For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. This means no matter which command we break, we are breaking God's law. The God who told us not to commit adultery or murder is the same God who gave us the royal law.


We said that favoritism is snobbish, silly, sinful, and...

#4) Favoritism is short-sighted.

Look again with me at James 2:12-13, “So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.”


James concludes this discussion with a solemn warning about the short-sightedness of favoritism: So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. As Christians, we are saved by grace through faith, but we will be judged by the law of liberty. While no true believer will be condemned, we will be judged. 2 Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”


There are two judgments. One is the judgment seat of Christ at which all Christians will be judged. The other is the great white throne judgment, where all lost people will be condemned and receive their degree of eternal punishment. (Rev. 20:11-15). The judgment seat of Christ will be a time of rewards for Christians, but it will also be a time of solemn rebukes. The works of some Christians will be like gold, silver, and precious stones, but others will be like wood, hay, and stubble. (1 Cor. 3:12).


All our lives will be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try our work to see of what sort it is. (1 Cor. 3:13).


What will happen to all of your bogus works, represented by wood, hay, and stubble, according to 1 Corinthians 3:15?


Some people will get into heaven by the skin of their teeth, like a person fleeing his burning home to watch the accumulated possessions of a lifetime turn to ashes. Jesus warned us about a bogus faith that does righteous acts or works, such as going to church, being baptized, etc. just to be seen by others. Jesus said in Matthew 6:1, “Take heed that ye do not your alms (offerings) before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.”


James concludes: For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. A deeper evil is revealed in this verse: favoritism is evidence of an unmerciful heart. The book of James is a "journey into a faith that works" because it cuts through all the sham and snobbery, going beyond beliefs to what is really important—behavior.


In this lesson we have seen the folly of favoritism because favoritism is snobbish, silly, sinful, and short-sighted.


Let’s pray.



Lesson 5  —>