This Week’s Question: What are the underlying sins behind prejudice, discrimination, and isms like racism, sexism, and chauvinism?
Sin, in the Old Testament, was defined by the law (a series of dos and don’ts), and Israelites could not decide which rule, law, or command they adhered to. James reports, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all (James 2:10).” Therefore, one had to follow God’s entire law to be deemed righteous. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, acknowledged He did not come to abolish the law (Matthew 5:17-20), but to fulfill it; and in doing so He established a new covenant by which mankind will be judged: Romans 14:23 teaches, “… for whatever is not from faith is sin.” This New Testament standard differs from the Old Testament in which sin was defined discreetly. Today, those who lack faith in the Godhead, Scripture, or God’s commandment to love – commit one (or more), of the following sins: lust, pride, or fear, which is the basis for this post.
I John 2:16-17 describes sin generally, “For all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” John, in this passage, identifies three carnal sins: (1) Lust of the flesh; (2) Lust of the eyes; and (3) Pride. The motive behind lust is envy and one commits lust of the eyes when he/she covets (or desires) what does not belong to them. It may be money, power, possessions, or people (like another’s husband or wife). Whenever that which is coveted is dwelt upon (rather than relegating it to a fleeting thought), a sin is committed. Lust's inherent danger is it entices us to act immorally. Therefore, the commission of a lustful act (whether robbery, infidelity, or surrendering to a vice), is the sin John calls lust of the flesh. Unfortunately, strife (which is defined Biblically as “a partisan and fractious spirit which does not disdain low arts”), regularly accompanies envy in The Bible. James addresses the envy/strife tandem by saying, “But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work (James 3:14-16).” Having a lustful heart, whether it is followed by action or not, is condemned by God.
The third sin espoused by John is pride of life which is defined Biblically as “an insolent and empty assurance, which trusts in its own power and resources and shamefully despises and violates divine laws and human rights.” Pride, in my opinion, is America’s greatest sin, and is a sin many must answer to when he/she comes before God’s judgment. Pride is the spirit that credits Christopher Columbus with discovering an inhabited land that resulted in Native Americans being decimated on their own soil. Pride is the spirit that initiated the slave-trade and relegates African-Americans to second-class citizenship, despite the fact that America’s foundation was built on the backs of this disenfranchised people! And pride is a pervasive spirit behind trumpism, nationalism, racism, sexism and every other ism that plagues Americans from all walks of life, and others around the world!
James 2:6 castigates a person who gives favorable treatment to a rich person because he/she is well dressed and accessorized (James 2:1-3)! James’ argument is the rich are the ones who oppress, sue, and blaspheme God’s Name. So the question is why do people of humble means cater to tormentors? The answer in one word is lust. The poor lust for the crumbs that can be thrown their way, while minimizing the pain inflicted upon them by the rich and powerful. This scenario may explain why poor whites, en masse, do not stand with African-Americans in their fight for civil rights – gains that, rightfully, would benefit them also! Poor whites, despite their poverty, acquiesce because they still command better jobs, better education, better healthcare, better housing, better prospects for rising above their station, etc., than their African-American counterparts. So the sin of lust is a primary motivator for kowtowing to the rich, but another is pride.
James 2:2-3 also describes that perpetrator treating a poor person with disdain, while verse 6 unequivocally states that he/she has contempt for that person. This scenario parallels the attitudes of white nationalists, other hate groups, and seems to be of the same ilk behind white privilege. Pride enables “privileged whites” to believe they are superior to non-whites (vis-à-vis, African-Americans, Native Americans, and immigrants), and condone inhumane treatment towards these, whom they consider, “pariahs.” Therefore, many rallied to the “make America great again,” campaign slogan, to bolster their power, whether real or perceived! The problem is even that slogan has a prideful undertone! In fact, it sounds very much like the attitude of King Nebuchadnezzar before God changed his heart to that of a beast (Daniel 4:30ff). It is interesting that before Nebuchadnezzar’s transformation, Daniel warned him by saying, “Therefore, O king, let my advice be acceptable to you; break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity (Daniel 4:27).” That same prideful spirit also caused the death of King Herod in Acts 12:21-23. Hopefully, this knowledge will be a wake-up call for anyone with a prideful heart who wants to do God’s will because “… God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).
The sad reality is even poor whites may be tormented by the rich and powerful, but they, too, are tooled with an arsenal that includes torment, and use it against non-whites. The senseless Treyvon Martin killing, the inhumane treatment of border immigrants, and the steady proliferation of white nationalism are further evidences of sin cloaked in white pride and coupled with fear! John 4:18 teaches “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” To reiterate what was said in an earlier post, the sin of fear is a motive behind the inhumane treatment immigrants experience today; it is also a motive behind the hostility and rage African-Americans experienced during slavery which persists today; and is a motive behind the annihilation of America’s indigenous population. It has been projected that whites will become a minority, in America, which is contributing to the unfounded fear some whites in this nation are experiencing.
In conclusion, it can be proven that lust, pride, and fear are the sins behind other forms of discrimination like sexism, chauvinism, and homophobia. However, while John effectively described the sin, he also outlined the antidote for overcoming the sin. In I John 4:18 he states, “…But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” Love for one’s fellow- man or woman is the perfect antidote for overcoming the sin that so easily besets us: It draws Christ’s Disciples closer to God; It aligns our priorities with God’s priorities; It helps us to see others differently because we understand that we are all in this fight together; and It prepares a home in Gloryland that outshines the sun for Saints who overcome the destructive sins of lust, pride, and fear. James’ summation is this: “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” The truth of the matter is love trumps hate!
Next Week’s Question: James 2:5 teaches that God has chosen the poor of this world? Why has He done so?