• Tony Birkhead

The right TOOLS for the job



A Change in Perspective Will Change Our View of People!

INTRODUCTION

It’s the differences that drive us nuts. I know from my perspective there would be a lot less trouble in the world if everyone would just do things my way. My biggest difficulties come when people don’t act the way I think they should or respond the way I think they should. James teaches us how are to deal with those differences.

KEY SCRIPTURE

James 2:1-13

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 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. 3 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,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 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? 6 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? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong? 8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 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. 12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

When you see a homeless person begging for money, what are your first thoughts about this person? Why should you give them money? If you don’t give them money, why don’t you?

How do we tend to subconsciously judge people according to looks, whether it be race or how they dress?

Have you ever experienced prejudice/differences in the church for yourself or seen it happen to others?

What does it mean that “mercy triumphs over judgment”? How can that help us overcome our differences with others?

If we do not show mercy to others, what will become of us? Can you think of anywhere else in the Bible where our mercy towards others affects God’s judgment of us?

PRAY TOGETHER

God, help me to not just see the differences but instead to see people the way you see them. Help me to offer mercy instead of judgement and love instead of rejection. Remind me that without your Holy Spirit we would all be poor indeed. Thank you that I can be alive and experience the richness of your love. Amen!

MOVING FORWARD

  • How can we as a group help overcome prejudice and differences within our church and group?

  • Can you think of a place where you can volunteer and serve others—somewhere you have never been before?

COMMENTARY

James 2:1-13

2:1. This verse commends Jesus as our glorious Lord Jesus Christ and warns that partiality against the poor is inconsistent with faith in Jesus Christ. My brothers shows that James wrote to his readers as believers and urged them to show the reality of their profession. Who is this Jesus? First, Jesus is the object of our faith. We have made a trust or commitment to him. We are believers in Jesus. Second, Jesus is the Lord of Glory. The Greek literally reads, “our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Glory.” James gave the title of “Glory” to Jesus, using a term that represents the full presentation of God’s presence and majesty. Jesus is the glorious God. This is a remarkable confession to come from Jesus’ half brother.

The practice of favoritism involved giving benefits to people who had outward advantages such as money, power, or social prominence. The readers of James were courting the favor of these important people by showing preference for them over the poor. The Mosaic Law had forbidden giving respect to persons of prominence (Deut. 1:17). To these scheming readers James gave a sharp directive, “Stop it!”

2:2–4. These verses illustrate the discrimination. In a Christian assembly a rich man and a poor man appeared. Perhaps both were non-Christians. The meeting could have taken place in the home of a Christian. The rich man wore a gold ring and fine clothes. The poor man appeared in shabby clothes. The word describing the ring of the rich man indicated that he was “gold-fingered.” He may have worn gold rings on several fingers. Wealthy people often wore more than a single ring. Shops rented rings to those wanting to give the appearance of wealth. Fine, used to describe the rich man’s clothing, means “sparkling” or “glittering.” Acts 10:30 uses the same word to describe the “shining” garments an angel was wearing. We would say he was a “smart” dresser.

Shabby, used to describe the poor man’s clothing, pictured clothing which was dirty or filthy. The man may have come from work, his clothing stained with the evidence of his labor. The handsome apparel of the rich man earned special treatment for him (v. 3). The greeter gave him a place of special honor. The soiled clothing of the poor man earned indifference to his comfort or feelings. He received the options of standing in some undesirable place or sitting on the floor near the greeter. The greeter showed no concern for his needs.

Verse 4 uses a question to accuse the readers of a pair of evil actions. An affirmative answer is expected. They had indeed discriminated and become evil judges. First, they discriminated among themselves. They were guilty of creating divisions in their midst despite the fact that they had accepted the abolition of class distinctions (see Gal. 3:28). Second, they acted like evil-minded or prejudiced judges, regulating their conduct by blatantly false principles.

They practiced a favoritism toward the rich inconsistent with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for all people. If they continued to practice it, they could not claim to be followers of the Lord who abolished partiality. Deuteronomy 10:17 shows that God practices no partiality. Surely he could not tolerate such action among his own children. A wide difference separated the faith they professed from their partisan practices. We can apply this warning in our relationships with different races, social classes, or economic groups.

2:5–6a. Partiality is contrary to God’s plan and threatening to the best interests of believers. James contrasted God’s exaltation of the poor with their abuse by his readers. Their practice of discrimination against the poor was contrary to the way God had purposed to treat them. Verse 5 shows how God views the poor. Verse 6a presents the contrasting practices of his readers. It is clear: Christians need to adopt God’s outlook for the poor. God chose the poor. Paul used “chose” to describe the election of believers to salvation (Eph. 1:4). In James 2:5 “chose” describes spiritual blessings God has reserved for the poor. God chose the poor to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him.

The world may look on poverty-stricken people as insignificant and worthless. God sees them as abounding in the riches of faith. Their faith allows them to experience God’s wealth—salvation and its accompanying blessings. This does not suggest all the poor are converted, nor does it mean God practices a bias against those who are not poor. The poor God blesses are those whose poverty is primarily to be “poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3). Often those who are economically poor are better placed than the wealthy to understand God’s purposes. They are more likely than the rich to be prospects for conversion. The kingdom is the full manifestation of Christ’s future kingdom at the end of the age. The poor may appear insignificant in this world, but they have the glorious hope of inheriting the kingdom with Jesus (see Matt. 25:34). God loves the poor more than their treatment by Christians indicates. Verse 6a outlines the church’s treatment of the poor. They had insulted the poor by asking them to stand in some uncomfortable location or to sit on the floor as the Christians gathered for worship. Such shabby treatment could convince the poor that Christianity was not for them.

2:6b–7. The actions of the Christians did not help their own interests. They were pursuing a path of folly. Their treatment of the rich and the poor resembled honoring an executioner while insulting a valued friend. The rich faced three charges. First, they were exploiting the poor by social and economic mistreatment. James 5:4 accuses the wealthy of failing to pay past-due wages. It was a strange twist of circumstances to honor such abusive masters.Second, the rich hauled believers into court and practiced judicial persecution. Notice the actions of the wealthy slaveowners who dragged Paul and Silas into court in Acts 16:19–21. Third, they belittled the Lord Jesus by insulting his person and rejecting his claims. The Jews of Antioch showed this behavior in Acts 13:45. These whom the church welcomed were not Christians but wealthy, Christ-rejecting Jews. The readers of James belonged to Jesus, and their biased actions dishonored his honorable name.

2:8. James designated the command to love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18) as the royal law. He may have used the term royal because Christ, the true king, set forth the law (Matt. 22:39). In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37) Jesus defined a neighbor and discussed the demands of loving a neighbor. Jesus defined a neighbor as anyone in need. He urged us to show our love to neighbors by responding to their needs. Some of James’s readers felt they had been obedient to God in the matter of showing love for the poor and needy. Wherever that was true, James gave credit. If they were really putting God’s law into practice, this was noble and commendable. The command to love our neighbor as we love ourselves is an impossible standard without the power of the living Christ (John 13:34–35). Whenever Christians have applied this standard, it has remade communities, societies, and homes. Whoever follows this life of service will receive the Lord’s commendation at the final judgment (Matt. 25:21).

2:9–11. This section deplores the violation of the royal law. If the readers truly practiced favoritism, they committed sin and stood convicted as lawbreakers. Leviticus 19:15 had warned against the practice of favoritism, against either the poor or the rich. It appealed for fair treatment of our neighbors. Lawbreakers describes persons who have stepped over a line or a limit. Lawbreakers had mockingly stepped over God’s boundaries and performed a forbidden practice.

Verse 10 shows why those who practice partiality are lawbreakers. Some Jews saw God’s law as containing many detached requirements forbidding such actions as murder, adultery, and robbery. They failed to see its unity. They may have felt that strict obedience at one point would compensate for disobedience elsewhere. God’s Law is not like a setup of ten bowling pins which we knock down one at a time. It more resembles a pane of glass in which a break at one point means that the entire pane is broken. The primary application of verse 10 was to one who showed partiality for the rich over the poor. Violating this single commandment made a person a lawbreaker. We should apply the statement of verse 10 in other areas where we are tempted to praise ourselves for obedience at one point while neglecting to consider the points where we grievously disobey God’s teachings.

2:12–13. These verses conclude the discussion of partiality by appealing for obedience to the royal law in both speech and action. Those who judge others often forget that they must face God’s judgment. The reality of God’s coming judgment is an incentive for Christians to speak and act obediently. The standard of judgment in that day will be the law that gives freedom. This is a reference to the gospel (see also James 1:25 and the discussion of the term under “Deeper Discoveries” in chapter 1). In John 8:32–36 Jesus had described the gospel as a truth which sets people free. James echoed these words in verse 12. Those who obey God by faith in Jesus Christ find freedom to serve God and escape from fear of future judgment. Faith in Jesus Christ provides freedom to escape hatred and self-love and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

James alluded to the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:7 to warn that those who show no mercy will receive none in the final judgment. Stated positively, this means mercy triumphs over judgment. This does not mean we receive mercy from God only when we show mercy to others. If that were true, it would make salvation a matter of God’s payment for our good deeds. For those who have given themselves in faith to Christ, God’s mercy triumphs over our guilt and judgment. If we have received God’s grace, we will stand in the coming judgment. Mercy can rejoice in its victory over condemnation.

#James #differences #prejudices

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