Favoritism: James Study (Part 2)

Favoritism – something most, if not all people are guilty of at one point or another. Growing up playing sports, the coach almost always had a favorite player, even if they said they didn't. It is so easy to favor certain people over another, whether it be the best/hardest athlete on the team, a committed and hard working employee, celebrities, wealthy people, etc. However, as Christians, we need to refrain from favoring one person/group over another, especially if it leads us to not treating the other very well. This is what we're going to dive into this month in our study of James: the sin of partiality (favoritism).

"My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory." -James 2:1

Partiality is an unfair bias in favor of one thing or person compared with another. In the introduction, we were calling this favoritism.

People's status in society should not affect how they are treated. We tend to be quick to judge people based on their external appearances and/or status, even in the church. Instead of focusing on what the world sees as important (wealth, success, etc.), we should focus on the fact that everyone is made in the image of God. When we have this perspective, it should affect how we view and treat others.

In this world, the poor (not just financially, but those considered disadvantaged) tend to be looked down on, but not in God's eyes. In the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3 it says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Those who are poor in this world, tend to be "rich" in faith. They have to trust more in God to provide for them. Matthew 19:24 says, "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." Wealth can be a major obstacle for people in trusting in God because it can be easy to rely on wealth and make it an idol.

The rich don't deserve the partiality that they are often shown compared to the poor. Throughout the Old Testament, there are records showing the rich oppressing the poor through the court system (see Amos 4:1; Malachi 3:5). In spite of these things, they are still often treated better than the poor.

We are told to love our neighbor (see Lev 19:18; Matt 22:34-40), we are not told to pick and choose who or what we love. Treating the wealthy (or whoever else) well is not the problem.  The problem comes when they are treated better than others – partiality is a sin. This section takes it a step further though and explains the severity of obeying the full law and not just part of it. As Christians, we can’t just pick and choose which of God’s commands we will obey. We must be obedient in all areas.

In the end, everyone will face God’s judgment. Thankfully we can have freedom from sin through the gospel; however, we need to try our best to be obedient to Christ and His law. The final verse in this section talks about mercy. The definition for mercy is compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm. God shows us mercy; therefore, we should be showing mercy to those around us. There are several verses throughout the Old and New Testament about mercy. Here are a few:

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” - Zechariah 7:9-10
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” -Matthew 5:7
“But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” -Matthew 6:15
“Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” - Matthew 18:32-35

Mercy was an essential requirement to believers in both the Old and New Testament. If we don’t show mercy to others, why should God show mercy to us? Take some time to think about your life and the relationships you have with those around you. Are there people you could be treating better? Do you have a person or groups to whom you show favoritism?

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West Point, VA
Courtney is SEM's Marketing Manager. She joined SEM full-time in 2016. Outside of SEM, Courtney enjoys hiking with her golden retriever, Mya and volunteering at LifePointe Christian Church.