The Sin of Partiality

                                                                           (James 2:1-13)

 

Jas 2:1  My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 
Jas 2:2  For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; 
Jas 2:3  And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: 
Jas 2:4  Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? 
Jas 2:5  Hearken, my beloved brethren, 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? 
Jas 2:6  But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? 
Jas 2:7  Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? 
Jas 2:8  If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 
Jas 2:9  But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. 
Jas 2:10  For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 
Jas 2:11  For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.
Jas 2:12  So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 
Jas 2:13  For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. 

 

Have you ever been treated differently to other people. Maybe a teachers pet, or the favourite child in your family. Maybe you were treated better in your employment for one reason or another.
Maybe you were treated like this because you were a pretty child, or because you were good at sport or art. It could be that you came from a well off family or had a famous mother or father. Maybe you were favoured because you were a good looking woman or man by your  employer, or a family member spoke up for you and you got the job over someone else.
It could be that this brought you promotion, even though someone else was far more qualified for the job.

Then on the other hand, maybe you were the one that was discriminated against. Maybe it was your height, your weight, your  colour, your gender or your social standing. It could have been because you had a disability or just that you were different.

How did it make you feel?
Maybe it affected you and formed the attitudes that you have today. Maybe your choices are made as a result of this discrimination.
It could have made you introverted or extraverted, or bitter and hateful.

There are many words that describe this kind of treatment of others.
Partiality (RSV), Favouritism (NIV), Respect of persons (KJV), or just plain discrimination, racism and prejudice.

The Greek word used here in
Jas 2:3 “respect” is epiblepo -- "partiality." Meaning to favor one party more than the other.
In
Jas 2:4 “partial”, it is diakrino – “Discriminate”
In
Jas 2:9 “respect”,  prosoproleptio – “to show partiality”.

Which ever word you use, it means the same thing.
Choosing one over the other for the wrong reasons.

Notice, the operative words here are “wrong reasons”.

It is not wrong to choose one instead of another, if one is more qualified for a job, or the candidate is more suitable for a position.
Decisions have to be made all the time but these decisions should be based on right reasons.
This passage of scripture in the epistle of James deals with this problem.
Bear in mind that this letter is not talking about those who are not Christians, those outside the church but James is speaking to Christians, believers within the fellowship of the church.


Jas 2:1  My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 

Straight away, James makes the important statement. “have not” or “Do not have” or “Never have”.
Don’t say that you have faith in Jesus Christ and then show favouritism. Don’t ever discriminate against others on the grounds of colour, race, creed, social position, riches or  outward appearance.

 

James then goes on to give an example of what he is meaning.

Jas 2:2  For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; 
Jas 2:3  And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: 
Jas 2:4  Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? 


Why would there be a need for James to challenge Christians in such a way?
Surely this could not happen in the church. One would think it unbelievable that Christians could be partial or racial or prejudiced.
However, unfortunately, this is what it was like in the time of James and sadly it is the same in our time.
James calls on us to recognize the problem and deal with it.

This is not acceptable behaviour from Christians. It is dishonouring to Christ and to the ones that Christ died for.

This is not just unacceptable, James says it is sin.

Jas 2:9  But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are  convinced of the law as transgressors. 

Sinners and transgressors of the law of God.
When we do this we become other peoples judge.


Jas 2:4  Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? 
(The wrong reasons)

What is the source of evil? Pride and selfishness.
We cannot deny this sin, whenever we show discrimination and partiality. If we make excuses we deny ourselves and the truth is not in us.
We make God a liar.


1 John 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.


When we break one part of the law of God, we are guilty of all.

Jas 2:10  For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 

We treat the rich with honour because they have power and wealth, and we hope that by our actions some of that honour and power and wealth might rub off on us.
We may not want to admit this but this is the thought pattern. Well! Some say, it never hurts to be on the good side of a rich person.
This is not right.
Our actions are selfish, self-serving. As the scripture says:


1 Timothy 6:10 "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs".

Our discrimination is based on our own love of money. Our own lust, our own greed.

What about our mistreatment of the poor? Selfish again.
We don't want to lower ourselves to their level, either social or economic, and don't want to feel obligated to help them.
Again, Selfishness.

 

What was the last verse of James chapter 1?
 

Jas 1:27  Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. 
 

It may not be money or power that causes us to discriminate. It may be youth or talent.
It has been said that as you get old you become invisible.
Whatever it is that causes these feelings in us, it is dishonouring to Christ and the Gospel.

Jesus said we must become like little children.


Matt 18: 3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

I read an interesting article the other day that brought this home to me.
W hen one sees or meets a handicapped individual for the first time, the most striking thing about him is his disability. Handicapped teenagers and adults are aware of this; handicapped children usually are not.
For instance, a child with a speech defect has often been heard to ask why another person with a similar defect "talks that way," thus showing a complete unawareness of his own handicap.
This is innocence.
If only we could have the same mind set.
Until it is pointed out to them, children don’t see colour either.
This is not talking about being “childish” but “childlike”.


Jas 2:5  Hearken, my beloved brethren, 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? 

Jas 1:9  Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: 
Jas 1:10  But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. 
Jas 1:11  For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.
 

Whether we are poor or rich we all end up dead. It has been said, there are no pockets in shrouds or you can’t take your riches with you.
Jesus said, “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven”.

Our riches are in Christ, not in our pockets.
We should not put store in our riches, for they will fade away.

In James 2: 6,7 James is being ironic here, he is saying, “You look up to these rich, well dressed people when these are the very ones that  exploit you and use you and drag you through the courts. Can you not see through this?”

Jas 2:6  But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? 
Jas 2:7  Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? 

 

We fulfil the law of God when love our neighbour as ourselves.

Jas 2:8  If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 

John 13:34-35"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

The centre of Jesus' ministry was love -- love for the poor, love for those rejected by society, love for the sick. He didn't come for himself, he came for them. He came for us.

Partiality and prejudice and favouritism are essentially self-serving, self-centred and basically evil.
 

Matthew 7:1-3  Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?


Here is a grave warning to any of us that acts in a discriminatory way towards our brethren or anyone for that matter.
To be partial, biased, racist, prejudice will bring upon our heads the judgement with which we judge.

 

Jas 2:13  For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. 

Rom 2:1  Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. 

Rom 2:2  But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. 

Rom 2:3  And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? 


To sum up.

Why should we take notice of this letter of James?

1. It is not consistent with faith in Jesus Christ (v.1
). When you look at the life of Jesus, what Jesus taught and how Jesus behaved - there is no justification for favouritism, partiality or prejudice. It is not compatible with faith in Jesus Christ.

 

2. It makes us "judges with evil thoughts," (v.4). The kind of favouritism James describes doesn't come from good thoughts, but evil thoughts. The way that we treat others depends upon how we perceive them. This kind of behaviour insults the other person and is born out of wrong or evil thoughts.
 

3. It is wrong because God is no respecter of persons (v.5). 
 

Act 10:34  Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 

1Pe 1:17  And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: 

4. It dishonours the persons in question.

Jas 2:6  But ye have despised the poor.

It is wrong to dishonour someone, simply or merely because of their income, their financial status, their colour, their education, their family background or whatever else. The answer is, we shouldn't.
1 Peter 2:17 says we are to honour all men.

1Pe 2:17  Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. 

 

5. It is a ridiculous thought, that as a class, the rich were those who oppressed Christians

Jas 2:6b Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? 

Jas 2:7  Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? 

Some of those who were rich and powerful oppressed Christians.

Jas 5:1  Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. 

​Jas 5:2  Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. 

Jas 5:3  Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. 

Jas 5:4  Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. 

Jas 5:5  Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. 

Jas 5:6  Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.

Why would these people be honoured and the common man is shunned!


6. It violates the royal law of love.

The royal law of love for God and neighbour is ignored when this kind of prejudice is practiced. If we show partiality, we commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

Jas 2:8  If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 

Jas 2:9  But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. 

Jas 2:10  For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 

Jas 2:11  For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. 

Jas 2:12  So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 

Jas 2:13  For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. 

Finally:

A word on The Law of Liberty. The Law of Freedom. James 2:12
Jas 2:12  So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 

This may seem at first a contradiction in terms. Law and Liberty. 
Can the two be the same?
This seems to fit in with James idea that faith without works is dead. (Works and Freedom)
On the surface it appears that James is saying that without works you cannot be saved. This is what causes the great argument and cause Martin Luther to state that James is an epistle of straw.

However as is clearly understood from James teaching, that faith without works is dead but that works without faith is impossible.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God”

That which sets us free from sin and death and sets us free to do good works is the Word of God, “The Gospel”.
James 2:12 by the law of liberty — The gospel, the law of universal love, which alone is perfect freedom. For their transgression of this, both in word and deed, the wicked shall be condemned.
 

All our conduct is judged by this law of liberty“the Gospel”.

Our salvation is judged on what we have done with the Gospel, Acceptance or rejection.
So too will our works be judged by the same measure “the Law of Liberty”.

 

We see James used this same phrase in James 1:25 But he who looked into the perfect law of liberty and continued therein. 

We were set free by the Law of Liberty, “The Gospel”and so it is up to us to continue in the same law.

 

When we engage in the kind of behaviour that James describes in this passage of scripture, we are not acting as God's children should act.

When we look at some ones outward appearance or status in life and judge them on it, we are guilty of the kind of discrimination James says is not compatible with faith in Christ.

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