This Week’s Question: From a Biblical perspective, what is prejudice or discrimination?
James 2:1-9 is a great passage for answering this question because it uses four Greek words to define prejudice from God’s perspective. The dictionary definition is “a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.” Using this definition as a backdrop, James, in Verse 1, warns against showing partiality or having respect of persons. The Greek word in that context is prosopolepsia, and means “the fault of one who when called on to give judgment has respect of the outward circumstances of man and not to their intrinsic merits, and so prefers, as the more worthy, one who is rich, high born, or powerful, to another who does not have these qualities.” This definition summarizes America’s perpetual discrimination which transmuted Native Americans into pariahs on their native resource-rich soil; systemically relegates African-Americans to second class citizenship; and explains why Mr. Trump proposes limiting America’s nouveau immigrant population to the skilled, while heartlessly incarcerating indigents.
In Verses 2 and 3 James gives an example of someone giving preferential treatment to a well-dressed person, while showing disdain to another dressed shabbily. The Greek word contextually is epiblepo, and means to look up to or have regard for someone. This definition explains why the American government extends exorbitant benefits to the rich, while simultaneously curtailing or threatening to curtail necessary social programs by arguing that it has no resources to continue serving its poor, disabled, and elderly population. Based upon political norms, one can easily conclude that America has the best government money can buy!
In Verse 4 James describes the fault behind prejudice as partiality. The Greek word contextually is diakrino, which means, “to separate, make a distinction, discriminate, or to prefer.” Another definition is, “to separate one's self in a hostile spirit, to oppose, strive with dispute, or contend.” These definitions sound very much like the impetus behind America’s Civil Rights movement, which was a fight, led by African-Americans, for equal social rights. It also explains why Muslims (domestically and internationally), are under heightened scrutiny by America’s governmental agencies.
James sums up this partiality discussion in Verse 9 by categorically declaring that anyone who is partial toward others commits sin! The Greek word in that context is prosopolepteo, which means to respect the person (in reality it means respecting or discriminating against a person because of external characteristics). Unfortunately, almost 250 years after the following Declaration of Independence words were penned: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” From God’s perspective, the sobering reality (based upon American History), is these words are merely an empty phrase penned on parchment, and many discriminators who defied these self-evident truths by their discriminatory actions, have hell to pay since the wages of sin is death (see Romans 6:23)!
Next Week’s Question: Does the Bible refer to prejudicial or discriminatory actions in Scriptures other than James? If so, where, and what is the context?