Day 29: Playing Favorites
“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones dragging you into court? Are they not the ones blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong? If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing it right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.“
James highlights a fundamental incompatibility between saying we are fully devoted to Christ, but showing partiality with people. There is no partiality with God, yet this may be one of the most insidious areas of struggle for believers. We don’t want it to be true, but all too often, it is.
The example we’re given here of a rich man and poor man coming into an assembly and being treated differently could very well be plucked right out of the biblical text and inserted into a Sunday morning experience. The thought makes us recoil a bit because we don’t want to admit our tendency to size people up and determine something about their worth based on the way they appear.
James goes on to say that everything rises and falls on the commandment of Jesus to love your neighbor as yourself. If we prefer others the way we prefer ourselves, if we care for and meet the needs of others the way we meet our own needs, if we consider what’s best for others the way we do for ourselves, then we’re doing it right. But anything short of that is partiality, and partiality is sin.
For the rest of this week, pay attention to your thoughts about others. At the drive-through, the kids’ school, the gym, church on Sunday, the store, and your neighborhood. Are your thoughts toward them the same as your thoughts toward yourself? Do you silently assess their worth based on what you’re observing about them? Is your heart toward them one of compassion and preference, or one of diminishment? Pay special attention to how well you love your neighbor as yourself.
Father, thank you for showing no partiality in making your grace and mercy available to us all. We are grateful beneficiaries of your willingness to look past our appearance or perceived worthiness. Help us to see others as you see them and to treat them in the same way.