James 2:1-7 – My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 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? 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? 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?
We all desire fairness.
So does God. Through Moses he charged the people of Israel to believe and to remember his divine purity on this issue:
Deuteronomy 10:17 – For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.
It follows immediately that he “defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing” (Deuteronomy 10:18).
The persistent, inescapable principle of being related to God as his people is that his character and ways are binding upon us as well. We are to be holy as he is holy. Partiality is an issue for James because God’s righteousness is the issue for James. God does not show partiality; therefore we must not show partiality.
1 Peter 1:17 – Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.
Acts 10:34-35 – Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.
Ephesians 6:9 – And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.
Romans 2:11 – For God does not show favoritism.
James was called “the Just” because it is clear he followed a very familiar line of Old Testament thought about justice. Again, our chapters division can cause us to not see that this is one unit of thought. Let’s go back and look at chapter 1. James says Don’t show favoritism because that would be an instance of “being polluted by the world.”
James 2:8-13 – If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 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. Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Christ would free us from the sin of materialism, so that we can be freed from economic favoritism. He would free us from the sin of racism, so that we can be freed from ethnic favoritism. The royal law of loving one’s neighbor as oneself brings freedom to forgive the neighbor’s wrongs, freedom to ask forgiveness for our own wrongs, freedom to accept differences among us and freedom to open ourselves to others. It is freedom from the selfishness that is at the heart of favoritism
Matthew 7:1-2 – 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.
James is not suggesting we just practice treating everyone the same as if righteousness consists of just giving everyone identical treatment. Rather he is speaking mercy.
Matthew 6:14-15 – For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Matthew 18:21-35 – Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”