James 2:1-7-The Sin of Partiality: Part 1- Loving Men More Than God Leads to Disastrous Results
I. Partiality does not exist with God. (vv. 1-4)
A. God sees right to the heart of a person.
1. Fine clothes- Greek: “bright”- Idea here is that someone who had bright clothing was rich because they could afford to pay for the expensive dyes that were put into that clothing.
2. Gold ring- in almost any culture, including our current culture, jewelry of one sort or another is used as a status symbol. Now, instead of gold rings (anyone can get a 10k gold ring for a decent price) it’s a Rolex or a Mercedes, or some other possession that has a way of showing monetary status in this world. At our age, class rings, varsity jackets, medals, trophies, and even diplomas are often tokens of status for us.
3. Reality check: Though appearance can reflect some things about the heart, does appearance always accurately do so?
B. All man sees is the appearance
1. Notice the adjectives here used to describe the two different types of people:
a. gold rings, fine or bright clothes
b. poor, dirty clothes
2. Notice how each is treated, though each has the same sin nature and (hopefully) the same heart of repentance towards God that saves them through faith:
a. The rich man is told, “Sit here in a good place,” or, “Sit here by my side.”
1) If you were the host, you would be at the head of the table, and the honored place of the guest was at the side, “seated by his bosom” as the Jewish custom was called of giving the seat of honor to the guest (See Upper Room Discourse in John 12 for more details).
2) He is treated as if he has somehow earned the right to sit here because of his appearance or social status. The question that must be asked is would he be treated the same way if he were the same person but with different clothing and such?
b. The poor man is told, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool.”
1) If you were the host, often your slaves would be seated at the foot of the table (Hence, the argument amongst the disciples of who would be the greatest and least in Jesus’ kingdom, and his great analogy of the servant being made greatest as He washes their feet, as ONLY a servant would be required to do).
2) In other words, you’re treating the poor person as if he was your slave or hired servant.
C. The desire to be a man pleaser based upon someone’s status or appearance is a grievous sin that can often become a stumbling block between the people that you are treating differently, as you have just created a division between them based upon on their status or materialistic wealth.
II. God wants us to be rich in faith, not rich in materials. (vv. 5-7)
A. “...the poor of this world...” = not our material possessions, but our spiritual possessions. We were incredibly poor before we had Christ because of our sin debt, but now we are rich in Christ because of our faith.
B. In treating people based upon appearance and status, we blaspheme God who “...commendeth His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).” So, is our motive to get respect, or to show the love of God?
C. Often times, the people we respect based upon appearances, we do because we’re afraid. James points out in verses 6 and 7 that often times, those we are trying to please could care less about what we’re doing to please them as long as it benefits them. In other words, to please them, we will often have to compromise.
D. The ultimate result, as is seen fully in verse 8, is that we fail to please God because we are not doing what God has commanded of us.
1) Are you judging people based on appearance, or based on their attitudes/actions?
2) Have you given in to the Fear of Man by allowing your desire to please people around you to cause you to compromise on your faith in Jesus Christ and His Word?
3) What is your motive when you show respect to people around you? Is it to bring glory to God or glory to yourself?
4) Do you trust God or riches? What will satisfy you?