This Week’s Question: There should be little disagreement that discrimination remains a part of the social fabric of America, so what are the underlying problems with showing partiality or favoritism, as commanded by James in James 2:1-9?
According to James there are several problems associated with showing favoritism! Nevertheless, the favoritism James describes is not based upon an affinity one person has towards another because of one’s personal knowledge or an interpersonal relationship. Instead it is based upon a prejudicial attitude toward another person’s physical characteristics, which in this case is attire and jewelry (or lack thereof which is discrimination). However, the favoritism could have, just as easily, been precipitated by one’s gender, ethnicity, vocabulary, native language, citizenship, or a host of other factors. When physical factors are the sole basis for how one person treats another, James calls the offending party a judge with evil thoughts (see verse 2:4), and the Bible teaches “Judge not, that you be not judged (see Matthew 7:1).”
The second reason for not showing favoritism is a person’s actions may pit him/her against God. James teaches in verse 2:5, “…Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?” Therefore, James identifies the poor who are rich in faith, as God’s chosen people. Thus anyone who offends anyone within that group, especially when the offended party does not retaliate, has to face God’s vengeance according to Romans 12:19-21, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
The third and final reason James offers for not showing favoritism is it violates God’s law. Verses 8-9 teach, “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.” Being labeled a sinner or transgressor by God is not a badge of honor, because Scripture teaches, “the wages of sin is death… (see Romans 6:23).”
Thus, in the final analysis, showing favoritism, irrespective of one’s motive, is dangerous because it is a sin fueled by lust, pride, or fear (to be explained more fully in a future post), and pits the offending party against God for one of three possible reasons: (1) Being an evil judge; (2) Offending God’s chosen people; or (3) Forsaking the law of love. Finally, regardless of the underlying reason one shows favoritism, he/she has “hell to pay” when they come before God’s judgment seat!
Next Week’s Question: From a Biblical perspective, what is prejudice or discrimination?