James 2:1-9 The Sin of Discrimination

by | Aug 23, 2023 | James, New Testament

I. The Exhortation Vs. 1-5

A. The Faith We Hold V. 1

1. Hold the faith- practice the faith. We decide how we are going to practice our faith.

a. Our daily walk of faith is neither mindless nor automatic.
b. The Holy Spirit prompts us or restrains us, and the Word of God instructs us.
c. We must decide whether we will obey God, or live according to our own desires.

2. The Lord of glory- Moffat- “The Christian religion [is here called] more explicitly belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the divine Glory – a striking term for Christ as the full manifestation of the divine presence and majesty. The Jews called this the shekinah.”

a. James reminded the believers that their faith was in Christ, the Incarnate Son of God.
b. James presented Jesus and the faith in the highest terms possible.

B. Do Not Practice Partiality Vs. 1-4

1. V. 1 Partiality- Blue Letter Bible- the fault of one who when called on to give judgment has respect of the outward circumstances of man and not to their intrinsic merits, and so prefers, as the more worthy, one who is rich, high born, or powerful, to another who does not have these qualities.

a. Discrimination in whatever form it may come. In this case, rich versus poor.
b. In our days, we discriminate according to culture, language, ethnicity, nationality, gender preference, political leanings. We not only discriminate, we judge and hate.
c. We are sometimes quick judge a book by its cover. We categorize people according to our feelings and faith, instead of seeing them as people that God loves.

2. What V. 2 isn’t saying- It is not suggesting that we condone or allow any kind of behavior in the Church of Jesus Christ. It is not promoting an acceptance of sin.

a. It speaks of someone walking into the Church. Do we welcome all equally?
b. By extension, it speaks of how you treat your fellow citizens in Napa and beyond.

3. Remember the recipients of this letter: 1st century Christians under persecution.

a. They may have shown preference to the rich, hoping for some kind of assistance.
b. They may have avoided the poor as an unwanted burden, or simply didn’t like them.

4. Vs. 2, 3 The rich- Gold rings on the left hand were a sign of wealth.

a. You could rent gold rings for special occasions. Obvious displays of wealth.
b. Because they are pleasant to be around, and because we might benefit from them, we sometimes show partiality to the rich.

5. Vs. 2, 3 The poor-speaks of the very poor, even those reduced to being beggars.

a. One of our instincts towards such people can be to avoid them, since they are obviously in need, and we may not want to feel obligated to help them.
b. Another instinct may be that we blame them for their own poverty condition.
c. We assume that their condition must be their fault, and we assume that their recovery ought to be completely up to them. “It’s their own fault”. It may or may not be.

6. Treating people according to what James describes is to have a carnal, sinful heart.
7. V. 4 Judges with evil hearts- By our own carnal and sinful thinking, we decide who gets to be treated well, and who doesn’t.

a. James says that that kind of thinking reveals our sinfulness.

II. Reasons For The Exhortation Vs. 5-9

A. God’s View Of The Poor, (And Others We Might Overlook) V. 5

1. God’s calling and choosing amongst humanity includes the poor.
2. Many people would overlook the poor, but God includes the poor amongst His people.
3. God also invites those who are poor so that he can make them spiritually rich.
4. Meyer- “The rich man may trust Him; but the poor man must. . . . the poor man has no fortress in which to hide, except the two strong arms of God.”
5. Hiebert- “Church history demonstrates that comparatively more poor people than rich have responded to the gospel.”
6. In a broader sense, God calls many that we might discriminate against.
7. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

B. Observations About The Rich Vs. 6, 7

1. Jesus spoke of the fact that it is less likely for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
2. They often depend on their money & sometimes use it to take advantage of other people.
3. Matthew 19:23-24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
4. Because the rich are less likely to surrender to God, they often mock God and His people.
5. In our carnality, we sometimes prefer them over the poor; it’s wrong for many reasons.

C. Objections About Our Behavior Vs. 8, 9

1. It seems that James might be answering a previously stated defense by some Believers.
2. When preferring the rich, some in the local church might have declared…
“I’m just loving my neighbor as I love myself”.
3. James’ statement seems to be a response.
4. Many people “love their neighbor like they love themselves”, because the truth is closer to this phrase: “I love my neighbor because he is like myself”.
5. In loving our rich neighbor, we may claim, “I am keeping the law”.

a. But in not loving our poor neighbor, we are breaking the Law.
b. It is easy to use Scripture to defend or sins and failures.
c. We can emphasize the rightness of the things we like doing, and skip over the rest.
d. If we “use” the Bible to defend our actions, then we need to embrace the entire Bible, not just the portions that we like.

6. Keep in mind that James is correcting Christians that are already suffering for their faith.

a. In their suffering, they are giving themselves some wiggle room.
b. They are obeying the portions of God’s Word that is easy for them to do.
c. They are overlooking portions that demand self-sacrifice in ways they don’t like.

7. James is saying if we break a portion of God’s law, we are lawbreakers.
8. He will develop that theme starting in verse 10.

D. Examples

1. 2 Corinthians 6:3-10 We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. 4But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, 5in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; 6by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, 7by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, 8by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; 9as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; 10as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
2. 2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.