Whether you think you have prejudices or not, I can assure you that you do. They can be overcome, but they do exist. Do you think you do not judge others? Consider your opinions regarding certain hot topics such as transgenderism, you have one and you think yours is the right one. That means you think someone else’s is the wrong one. We all judge. It is a natural part of us but it is a part of us that we can control.
One place judgement shows its head is our treatment of the rich and poor. For whatever reason, we consider one or the other circumstance to mean that a person is better or worse, more deserving or less deserving, or more or less worthy of honor. James used the example of this bias to explain the principle of God’s impartiality and love through beneficence to the church. Verses 1-4 read,
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
The Kingdom of God is not like the world. In God’s Kingdom the bank account has nothing to do with honor due a person and the outer appearance have nothing to do with the heart or spirit. James pointed this out to the church by showing them that they did practice bias by giving the well-dressed man a seat of honor and pointing the scruffily dressed man to the floor. What I see though is how different the Kingdom of God is. Sitting at the teacher’s feet in God’s Kingdom is the better choice. When Martha and Lazarus’ sister Mary chose to sit at Jesus’ feet, Jesus commended her and we still remember the honor of that today (Luke 10:38-42).
God shows no partiality (Romans 2:11). He gives us all favor when we come into the church by faith. Some people are rich, some are poor, some are healthy, some are not, some are charming, some are shy, but God gives every one of us gifts and such to allow us to become complete in His image, lacking in nothing. Verses 5-7 remind the church of this.
Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
It takes more faith in God’s provision to be poor. God chose to honor the poor in that way and says we ought to honor people’s gifts and faith by seeing that. It is the world that shows honor to people based on things like money (or lack of money). It is the powerful of the world who demand honor through wielding their power. The powerful of the Kingdom of God on the other hand wield the Word of God and His power to love all people in concrete ways that are evident. Verses 8-13 read,
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Keeping that royal law is vital, but keeping it because it is a law and not because it is the result of God’s salvation and transformation of us is missing the mark. If you do charitable works because you are fulfilling the law to love your neighbor, then you better hope and pray that you do not break any law, whatsoever. Did you lust, even for a moment? Then according to Jesus you committed adultery (Matthew 5:27-28) and you’ve broken the whole law. The Mosaic Law is an all or nothing kind of thing. If you are doing good works for people because that is what the law requires then your bias means you have broken that law and that means you’ve broken the whole law.
Faith is all or nothing as well. You choose faith, the law of liberty or you choose commandments and the Law of Moses. You cannot choose both. If you choose to obey commandments as the way to earn salvation, what you do will come back on your head. You will judge people (because we all judge) and God will judge you. In Matthew 7:1-2 Jesus said,
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”
But if you choose to live out your faith, the good works you do will come from that faith not from an obligation and God will judge you from the mercy seat of Christ (Romans 14:10). In John 5:24 Jesus said,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
We love, we do good works, not because we are trying to earn salvation but because it is the supernatural outpouring of the Spirit, the response of faith to salvation. We pay for someone’s lunch, not because our religion commands good works but because the God loves that person and He wants them to know it. We visit prisoners, not because it is a command but because our Father adores the prisoners and wants to set them free and give them His life.
You do not have to do those good works to earn salvation. But if you have God’s mighty loving Spirit abiding in you, you cannot not do those good things. If you have God’s nature, you will do what He would do and that would be to give generously, love deeply and tangibly, provide and be kind; in other words you will be doers of the word and not hearers (or speakers) only. Verses 14-17 read,
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
The Spirit of Holy Loving God shows up in His people and it shows up because we live out the faith we have. If you say you believe God will provide but you hold onto your last dollar when you see a person who needs it, is that faith? If you say you have faith that God loves the rich evil man, but you cannot show him kindness, is that faith? Faith shows up in real ways. I can say I trust the parachute to open, but if I refuse to jump out of the plane, then it is only lip service. Verses 18-26 read,
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
It was an act of faith, when you said, “I believe you God, Jesus is my savior” and you made chose to submit yourself to Him that demonstrated the belief in your heart. Faith without the act is not faith. Faith does not judge who deserves our charity and who does not. God wants every person to come to Him, He wants every person to have eternal life (2 Peter 3:9). Faith allows us to love everyone impartially as God does. Faith means we live out of love, the law of liberty and not out of obligation to Pharisaical or Mosaic Law.