Seeking Wisdom in Difficult Days
A Study of James
Pride and Prejudice
***Famous People 2021 – Who are our heros?
Show No Partiality (vv. 1-7)
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
Partiality is literally “to accept the face,” it means inappropriate favoritism, or prejudice. It is to ignore the content of their character, and base your judgement entirely on the outward appearance. James is saying that it has no place in the local church. It is these prejudices that lead to distinctions among the gathered church.
James describes a rich man who is clearly understood to be rich by his “man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing” “Dress constituted a badge of status and vocation in the first century, and the contrast between the rich and poor was quite conspicuous in one’s clothing.” In the parable of the prodigal son, the gold ring and coat is a symbol of wealth and status. Luke 15:22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.”
The poor typically only had one set of clothes that they would work in which would be stained and worn. The rich had multiple outfits, so it would be obvious. The distinctions also carried over into where people sat down – the rich had choice seating and the poor had to sit on the floor.
Why are distinctions wrong or evil? James is indicating that when you place one person above another person in the church – that this is wrong? But why is it wrong?
1) James says that when you make distinctions between people in the gathered church, then you are departing from “the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” When you do this, then you are moving away from the teachings of Christ.
2) You are acting as a judge over people, you have become “judges with evil thoughts.”
3) When you show partiality and make distinctions you are acting like the world. James says, “Are not the rich the ones who oppress you” They are acting like the world that looks at them and says “Christian” and then persecutes them.
In the Roman world there was a complex hierarchy of status – It ranged from old money to new money, from slaves to freedmen, business people to laborers, military service, Roman born and those that became citizens, those elected to public office and the fees and expectations for those offices.
All of this is going on behind the scenes – and amongst all the Roman culture a person becomes a follower of Jesus Christ – One doesn’t just stop thinking the Roman way, it has to be rooted out. The things that bring glory to a person in the world – should not bring glory to the person in the local church.
“In the closing words of Chapter One we are exhorted, ‘to keep oneself unstained from the world.’ Here is a form of worldliness if ever there was one. Who is worshipped by the world today? Those who are wealthy, successful; those who have achieved fame in sports, show business, and such.”
There was also little chance of moving upward between the Roman class structures. Instead of moving up, people would try to make their level look like it is the best level to be on – people would go into debt spending money on things that were superfluous things at the expense of the needed items for their households just to appear a certain way and to receive glory and honor. (stolen valor videos on YouTube)
One these ways of spending was to sponsor (for road projects, artwork, public construction projects, etc.) – then there was a cultural expectation that the lower classes would regularly and repeatedly thank them for their donations. So, outside the church if you were poor you were expected to vocally and be over-the-top thankful toward the rich for their giving to the community which in some way benefited you.
So, the expectations and culture of the world was finding its way into the church. For James it is a tragedy for a person to be abused, neglected, and not receive justice in the world, but then go to church and receive the same treatment by their fellow Christians.
When the church gathers together, because of our walk with the Lord and having daily wrestled with His Word there should be a distinct difference in our relationships than with the world and how they treat each other.
There is one place (there should be two) when a poor person is not expected to recognize a benefactor – it’s at home amongst his family. If his family has helped him in some way (sister, brother, cousin) he was not expected to thank them again and again, and again – it was done and forgotten. James calls the church, “My brothers.” When we gather together we are family.
1 Timothy 5:1 “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.”
Seek to Fulfill the Royal Law (vv. 8-12)
8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
James summarizes all of the law “according the Scripture,” with “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” and if you keep this, you are doing well, and you are not keeping the Scriptures if you show partiality. The root of the royal law is love for another person.
“It is immaterial what the particular offense against the person may be – adultery, murder, theft, slander – if the basic principle of loving the other person is violated.” The same is true in that we don’t need more and more laws and rules – just “love your neighbor as yourself.”
To sin is to “miss the mark” or “to fall short” – To transgress is “to step over a line” or to “disobey a specific directive.”
James references the sixth and seventh commandments from the 10 commandments, “Do not kill,” and “do not commit adultery.” If you murder, it’s the same as adultery, it’s the same as showing partiality to another person. “Obedience to one precept in the law is no excuse for disobedience to another precept; the breach of any commandment of the law is rebellion against God, who gave the law.” Because love should be the root of all actions toward another person.
The command to not murder and to not commit adultery are important to understanding the point James is making – both deal with the honor and love that we give to other people. Murder is where a person dishonors his victim – you think so little of them that you take their life.
Adultery is where a person puts personal self-gratification above a spouse or children or family. This is where a person removes the honor that should be given to a spouse and family and exchanges it for self-gratification. When a person commits adultery they are not showing love toward the neighbor nor the spouse.
The issue is treating all people equitably with love and kindness – whether they have a gold ring on their finger or no shoes on their feet. What’s interesting is that James is placing murder, adultery, and partiality side by side.
The issue of partiality was crippling the early churches. Not just in the area of membership and leadership (service selection separated from authentic spiritual disciple), but in the very activities the church participates in – if we choose to minister to a group of people that the world counts as acceptable but refuse to help another that are more rejected by society then we are showing favoritism based on worldly cultural norms – then the world was guiding the ministry of the church.
It was also crippling because of what the church is supposed to be for church members. It is not a place of flexing power muscles, or exhibiting one’s wealth – It is a gathering of believer’s who need each other. The local church is where we go to find like-minded people, who share the same vision for reaching the lost, and are fighting against the world – so when we gather together, we encourage one another, love one another, support one another.
We lose this if we divide the church into groups. The world divides us up and then turn those groups against each other. This is the danger of identity politics finding its’ way into the church. For example: The world would say, “You are a 47-year-old white male, therefore you cannot minister to a 30-year-old black woman.” Or “You are a 70-year-old white woman therefore you cannot minister to a 8-year-old Hispanic boy.” These are categorically false statements – and they divide the church in ways Christ never intended and James here fights against.
We all need a place where are known, loved, and are able to serve according to how we are gifted by the Holy Spirit. Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
James reminds the church to, “speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.” Jesus referenced the time of judgement several times, as He taught his own followers:
Matthew 18:32-35 “Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
James is talking to the church, specifically when it is time for our judgement, “judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy.” Christians are to show mercy, not judgement.
Malcom Gladwell “Blink” quote . This passage deals with the fatal shooting of Amadou Dialloin in front of his apartment by four police officers. The police officers and Amadou both made false assumptions about the other which led to the tragic death of Amadou.
 James uses the literary form of a diatribe to make his point. “In the diatribe a fictional sparring partner is created by the use of question and response. . .As in this case, examples are sharpened and exaggerated.” Pheme Perkins, Interpretation A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, First and Second Peter, James, and Jude (Louisville, Kentucky; John Knox Press, 1995) 108.
 Clifton Allen, General Editor, The Broadman Bible Commentary, Volume 12 (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1972) 114. See also, Luke 15:22; 16:19
 David Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary, James (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan Publishing, 1997) 115.
 Nystrom 127.
 Lehman Strauss, James, Your Brother (Neptune, New Jersey; Loizeaux Brothers, 1980) 91.
 Nystrom 130. See “collegia.”
 Ibid, 118.
 Pheme Perkins, Interpretation A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, First and Second Peter, James, and Jude (Louisville, Kentucky; John Knox Press, 1995) 109.
 Leviticus 19:18 “. . . you shall love your neighbor as yourself. . .”
 George Arthur Buttrick, General Editor, The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 12 (Nashville, Tennessee; Abingdon Press, 1957) 39.
 Nystrom, 122.
 Malcom Gladwell, Blink The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (New York, New York; Little, Brown & CO., 2005) 189-194.