James 2:1–4 (ESV)
1 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?
In the context of James 2:1–13, James begins to address how the Christian becomes a “doer of the Word” (James 1:22). In the case of James 2:1–13, how should the Christian treat other people?
Warren Wiersbe, an accomplished author, pastor, and Bible teacher has a helpful commentary series entitled the “Be Series“. His commentary on the book of James, “Be Mature” aids in the understanding of James 2:1–13 this morning.
Wiersbe notes that in this section, “James examines four basic Christian doctrines in the light of the way we treat other people.” The four doctrines to be gleaned from this passage in James are the deity of Christ (vv. 1–4), the grace of God (vv. 5–7), the Word of God (vv. 8–11), and the judgment of God (vv. 12–13). It is the first doctrine that I wish to dwell on this morning. Here is what Wiersbe has to say on this doctrine:
The Deity of Christ (2:1–4)
“My brothers, don’t hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory, by showing favoritism” (literal translation). Jewish people in that day coveted recognition and honor, and vied with one another for praise. Our Lord’s parables in Luke 14:7–14 deal with the problem, and also His denunciation of the Pharisees in Matthew 23.
We have this same problem with us today. Pyramid climbers are among us, not only in politics, industry, and society, but also in the church. Almost every church has its cliques, and often, new Christians find it difficult to get in. Some church members use their offices to enhance their own images of importance. Many of the believers James wrote to were trying to seize spiritual offices, and James had to warn them (James 3:1).
Jesus did not respect persons. Even His enemies admitted, “You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are” (Matt 22:16 NIV). Our Lord did not look at the outward appearance; He looked at the heart. He was not impressed with riches or social status. The poor widow who gave her mite was greater in His eyes than the rich Pharisee who boastfully gave his large donation. Furthermore, He saw potential in the lives of sinners. In Simon, He saw a rock. In Matthew, the publican, He saw a faithful disciple who would one day write one of the four Gospels. The disciples were amazed to see Jesus talking with the sinful woman at the well of Sychar, but Jesus saw in her an instrument for reaping a grat harvest.
We are prone to judge people by their past, not their future. When Saul of Tarsus was converted, the church in Jerusalem was afraid to receive him! It took Barnabas, who in believed Saul’s conversion, to break down the walls (Acts 9:26–28). We are also prone to judge by outward appearance rather than by the inner attitude of the heart. We do not enjoy sitting with certain people in church because they “are not our kind of people.” Jesus was the Friend of sinners, though He disapproved of their sins. It was not compromise, but compassion, that caused Him to welcome them, and when they trusted Him, forgive them.
Jesus was despised and rejected. This fact was prophesied in Isaiah 53:1–3. He was “the poor man” that was rejected by the self-righteous nation. Unlike the foxes and the birds, He had no home. He grew up in the despised city of Nazareth in a home that knew the feeling of poverty. Had you and I met Him while He was ministering on earth, we would have seen nothing physically or materially that would attract us.
Yet, He is the very glory of God! In the Old Testament, God’s glory dwelled first in the tabernacle (Ex 40:34–38), and then in the temple (1 Kings 8:10–11). When Jesus came to earth, God’s glory resided in Him (John 1:14). Today, the glory of God dwells in the believer individually (1 Cor 6:19–20), and the church collectively (Eph 2:21–22).
The religious experts in Christ’s day judged Him by their human standards, and they rejected Him. He came from the wrong city, Nazareth of Galilee. He was not a graduate of their accepted schools. He did not have the official approval of the people in power. He had no wealth. His followers were a nondescript mob and included publicans and sinners. Yet He was the very glory of God! No wonder Jesus warned the religious leaders, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment” (John 7:24 NIV).
Sad to say, we often make the same mistakes. When visitors come into our churches, we tend to judge them on what we see outwardly rather than what they are inwardly. Dress, color of skin, fashion, and other superficial things carry more weight than the fruit of the Spirit that may be manifest in their lives. We cater to the rich because we hope to get something out of them, and we avoid the poor because they embarrass us. Jesus did not do this, and He cannot approve of it.
How do we practice the deity of Christ in our human relationships? It is really quite simple: look at everyone through the eyes of Christ. If the visitor is a Christian, we can accept him because Christ lives in him. If he is not a Christian, we can receive him because Christ died for him. It is Christ who is the link between us and others, and He is a link of love. The basis for relationship with others is the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Any other basis is not going to work. Furthermore, God can use even the most unlikely person to bring glory to His name. He used Peter and Zaccheus and John Mark, and he can use that poor man whom we might reject.
-Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Mature, pages 64–67