According to James, we need to be careful of our attitudes towards others.
My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.
This verse implies that faith and favoritism don’t go together. But that brings up some questions. When we hear the word favoritism in our society, we think of something unfair. The King James Version of the Bible translates it as being a respecter of persons.
The Bible also says that God doesn’t act this way. Yet we know that some people are under His grace – His favor – and others are not. So in actuality, the word favoritism is not a good description of what’s being talked about here.
The literal Greek translation of the word being used in the above verse is face-accepter. It’s when we judge someone simply by their appearance. God’s ways are very different from ours.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7
Psychologists tell us that our attitudes about people are formed within the first five minutes of meeting them. Usually it’s based upon zero facts. It’s all about the impression we get when we look at them.
Sometimes we pick up attitudes for no reason. We think someone is lazy and dumb without ever getting to know them. Then there are others we want to be around, knowing nothing substantial about them. That’s what James is talking about. Look at his description.
Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby 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?
It’s obvious that this is about looking at people’s outward appearance and making a judgment based on sight alone. James tells us that if we approach people in that way, then we aren’t walking in faith.
That word discriminate means to separate in order to make a distinction. When we treat people in this way, it’s because we’re looking at their possible value in what they could give to us.
That’s the evil thoughts that this is talking about. Relationships based upon what I can get out of it.
Listen, my dear brothers: 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 insulted 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 slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?
The word insulted in this verse means to render valueless. That’s the true problem. When we see someone as having no value simply based upon their appearance, we’re not operating in faith. I’m glad that God placed such a high value on us that Christ went to the cross for us.
We need to follow His example. He went to those that society had written off. We need to do the same.
Question: How do you judge people when you first meet them?
© Nick Zaccardi 2017