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James 2.1-4 – My brothers and sisters, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.
2 For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, 3 and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?
New Theme – No Favoritism
One of the central themes of the Book of James is stated in verse one. “Do not try to combine your faith in Jesus with an attitude that prefers one person over another” (verse 1 paraphrase).
One of the reasons why I am very happy to be a part of Maywood Baptist Church is the way we usually treat each other. I think Maywood people do a pretty good job of not showing favoritism. Not only do we accept the “poor man,” but we actually seek them out.
The blog articles over the next few days will highlight Jesus’ heart for all people. We will praise him for this aspect of his nature and character. We also will be encouraged to continue the good work of aligning our lives with one of his central values.
Outsiders and Underdogs are Special
It is easy to look after the needs of family and close friends. It takes the heart of God to care for outsiders and people who drain our resources. This is why God frequently commanded his people to care for people outside of the circle of those who are easy to serve.
Deuteronomy first revealed God’s loving nature, and then commanded people to be like him.
Deuteronomy 10:17-19 – For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. 18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. 19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
Every school seems to have a girl or a boy, who is an outcast. They are often unattractive, sometimes smelly, and rejected by the “in crowd.” I remember walking through our high school cafeteria and seeing the captain of the football team sharing lunch with the “outcast” girl of our school.
When I became a minister, I had the occasion to officiate this man’s marriage. While we were waiting for the ceremony to begin, I recounted my memory of being so impressed with him. He told me that he learned to reach out to other people from his friend, Jesus.
Isaiah told his audience that since they refused to care for the people God loved, he would remove his blessing from them. Instead of prosperity, they would experience judgment.
The Lord will enter into judgment
with the elders and princes of his people:
“It is you who have devoured the vineyard,
the spoil of the poor is in your houses.
What do you mean by crushing my people,
by grinding the face of the poor?”
declares the Lord God of hosts. (Isaiah 3:14-15)
Hubert H. Humphrey was the Vice President during the mid-to-late 1960s. His Christian faith was reflected in his social action. The three quotes from Humphrey are a good commentary on Isaiah’s words.
— “It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
— “Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism.”
— “When we say, ‘One nation under God, with liberty and justice for all’, we are talking about all people. We either ought to believe it or quit saying it.”
Jesus came to reveal the true nature and character of God (John 1.18). Jesus literally became poor, so we might become rich, full of his abundant life and joy.
Paul writes, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
James asks that we don’t show personal favoritism. Jesus went far beyond the admonition of James. He literally became poor in every possible way, so we could fully live.
An Example of Inclusion
James presents an example where “Mr. Goldfinger” is welcomed to the crowd and given preferred seating. On the other hand, “Mr. Nobody” is politely escorted to a place where he is not seen. James’ judgment on this behavior is, “Have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?” (Verse 4).
Since I have retired, I generally sit near the back of the auditorium during the worship service. That vantage point lets me know that Maywood is a strange and wonderful place.
— A first-time visitor to Maywood may be surprised to see the different kinds of people who roam the auditorium while Coach Jake is preaching.
— A man, who attended Maywood for the first time said, “The last time I saw this many tattoos was at a tattoo convention.”
— Another man was surprised to see so many of his cell-mates from Cameron (Department of Corrections) at Maywood.
— Home school families, grandmothers, business professionals, people in recovery, different races, and diverse backgrounds make up an average Sunday at Maywood.
The first sermon I heard at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary was by Dr. Grady Cauthen. I will never forget one line from his message. He said, “Everyone needs a home for the soul.”
The strange and wonderful place, Maywood Baptist Church, is just that for many people. It is a home for their soul.
Dear Jesus, thank you that though you were rich, you became poor, so we could be come rich through you. Thank you for the gift of relationships at Maywood Baptist Church. Please help us continue to be a home for the soul of people.