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Janet's Corner

Home | 2006-2007 | 2005-2006 | 2004-2005

Lesson 9: Real Faith Does Not Show Pariality

Remember James 1:22 is our key verse for the book of James – Be Doers of the Word, not merely hearers.

Our faith should be reflected in our conduct, if we really believe what we hear. Our convictions will be seen by how we live out our faith. What is real faith? According to the scriptures the definition of faith or belief reflects a firm conviction or a firm persuasion which leads to a surrender to that truth which leads to a change in conduct. Real faith in Jesus Christ changes your life! We saw that in the first chapter of James

Real Faith is seen by how we as believers -

  1. endure trials, escaping temptations
  2. receive the Word of God
  3. speak
  4. serve others
  5. keep ourselves from being polluted by the world

James continues to call us to maturity of our faith in chapter two. Remember his desire is for the persecuted Christians of his time to grow up and become complete in their faith. They were learning how to integrate their faith into their lives based on truth. These words are for us as well. We need to learn the truth so we can live the truth.

James chapter two begins by challenging us by teaching that

  1. real faith does not show partiality (verses 1-7)
  2. real faith loves (verses 8-13)

Let’s read verses 1-7

James reasons with these new believers to relate truth by giving instruction with either an example or an explanation to follow.

Verse 1 gives us the instruction.." My brothers, as fellow believers in the glorious Lord Jesus Christ, do not show partiality."  Who is he speaking to? Believers who need to learn how to relate to others without partiality or personal favoritism. Don’t you love how he makes his appeal to grow in their faith. It’s based on the one in whom they have placed their trust – the glorious Lord Jesus Christ! Doesn’t that motivate you to listen up – to meet the mark he has laid down? Another translation (NAS) says "do not hold your faith in Jesus with an attitude of personal favoritism." An attitude is an instinctive mental reaction that reveals an opinion. The opinion we have formed may be not based on truth or facts. The subsequent attitude or mental reaction we have is what shapes our actions or conduct.We have acquired both good and bad attitudes. The only right attitudes we should strive to convey are the attitudes expressed by the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians. (Love, joy, peace, kindness,…)

So what is an attitude of partiality? I think the text helps us define this word. Verse 3 - in the example to follow, James uses the phrase "show special attention". This is how partiality is seen. In the explanation to follow in verse 4 he questions them… "have you not discriminated among yourselves (made a distinction) and become judges with evil thoughts?" These give us evidence on how the attitudes of partiality are developed. Showing partiality is seen when special attention is paid toward a person or group of persons because of a certain opinion formed based on our judgmental thinking - evil motives or thoughts. We end up choosing one over the other. One group of people is favored to the neglect of another.

Look at the example that James gives in verses 2-3. Suppose – a hypothetical situation. A distinction based on looking at their clothing is made and determines how they treat the rich and the poor as they come into the church. In their society this was a real problem – people sought recognition and honor and praise. In Jesus’ day he condemns this need for recognition by the Pharisees in Matthew 23:5 "Everything they do is done for men to see…" Not much different in our society today, is it? In the business world, people seek to climb the ladder. In society distinctions are made by the offices you hold or education you have obtained or riches you have gained. This even infiltrates our churches in the form of cliques based on various distinctions. When special attention is given and someone is neglected because of it, this is showing partiality. Friendships are important, but not at the expense of neglecting others and thus showing partiality. It doesn’t express real faith – a faith based on the one we worship. When we show partiality it is based on our judgment and our choosing. What we need to consider is how God judges and how God chooses.

What are God’s standards for judging and choosing?    

1.  God judges the heart :

In this example in James, people were making a judgment based on what they saw on the outside. - With their eyes. John 7:24, Jesus warns the religious leaders in the temple - "stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment. He based His judgment of others on truth, not appearances. What you see (someone’s appearance) does not always reflect their heart.

I Samuel 16:7 When God chose David the shepherd boy over all his brothers to be king of Israel, the Lord said to Samuel. "The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

Jesus saw the heart of the poor widow who gave her last mite and she was greater in his eyes than the Pharisees. Jesus saw the potential in Zaccheus the sinful tax collector and went to his house to eat. He saw Simon Peter’s heart, who was always putting his foot in his mouth, yet became the spokesman for the church after the resurrection! God bases his judgment on the heart.

We judge people by their past, not their future, just as the early church was afraid to accept Saul after his conversion. We judge people by their outward appearance. We look at their skin, their dress, culture, education, social status, their ability or disability. Our attitude may be expressed in a thought – "they are not our kind of people." Jesus looks at their heart and says those are my kind of people, sinners who need grace and have great potential to be all I can make them to be.

How we need God’s eyes!

     2.  God’s choosing

When we show personal favoritism, we are not only judging one person over another, but choosing one over another.

Verse 5 continues to give explanation and understanding to the example. Remember in this example of partiality, they were choosing the rich over the poor. James says – listen, brothers (another reminder to whom they represent)…who has God chosen? He chose the poor to be rich in faith! But what have you done with them – insulted them – dishonored them. As we exhibit an attitude of partiality or favoritism we really are dishonoring another person. I Peter 2:17 we are called to honor all men. Showing partiality does not show honor.

And then he goes on to show them how absurd their choice of the rich really was. Verse 6-7 they were the very people that were exploiting or using them, dragging them into court, slandering the name of Jesus – to whom you belong!! They are really honoring their enemy. In Matthew 22:16 others noted that Jesus was not swayed by men, because he paid no attention to who they were. These disciples of the Pharisees noted Jesus to be a man of integrity who taught the way of God in accordance with the truth. God chooses according to truth. Who they were would not get his special attention.

I Corinthians 1:26-27 shows us God’s way of choosing:

Think of what you were when you were called…

God chose the foolish things, the weak things, the lowly things, the despised things. We can reject people for the wrong reason, who God has chosen for the right reason. Ephesians 2:14-18 shows us that he broke down the barriers that separate us one from another through His death

Through His life He broke down the barriers between young and old, rich and poor, educated and uneducated...Do we erect them again with our attitudes toward others?

Ephesians 6:9 is the bottom line "There is no favoritism with God."

Real Faith shows no partiality, no favoritism. Let’s live out what we believe!

Maybe God has brought one situation to your mind during this time of study. Is He revealing a certain attitude you may have toward another person which ends in showing partiality toward someone else? This attitude may be revealed to you by who you choose to sit with or who you choose to avoid. Or who you choose to talk to or how you greet someone. Or what call you screen on your phone with caller ID. The important thing is to let the Holy Spirit bring these times to your attention and be cleansed. Let God give you His eyes and His heart!

God chooses with great purpose and sees great potential in people

How we need to gain His eyes and His heart!