James 2:1-13 The Folly of Favoritism


In his autobiography, Gandhi wrote that during his student days he read the Gospels seriously and considered converting to Christianity.

He believed that in the teachings of Jesus he could find the solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India.


So one Sunday he decided to attend services at a nearby Christian church and talk to the minister about becoming a Christian. When he entered the sanctuary, however, the usher refused to give him a seat and suggested that he go worship with his own people.


Gandhi left the church and never returned. Here is what he said: “If Christians have caste differences also I might as well remain a Hindu.”


That tragic story illustrates the sin that James writes against in our text.

A) His focus is on the sin of showing favoritism to the rich and despising the poor, but his words apply to all types of prejudice, whether it is based on economic status, race, or anything else.


B) The word prejudice implies that someone looks at one person or shows them his face, but turns away from another.


                      RD V.1 

My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.

A) Notice first of all the description that James gives here of his older ½ brother


Our Lord Jesus Christ the Lord of Glory


 B) There are only two references to Jesus Christ by name in this entire epistle – see also 1:1


C) That is an amazing description when you consider the fact that James didn’t even become a believer until after the Resurrection !


D) But after the REZ James becomes a pillar and leader in the Church


Here he gives this wonderful Description of Christ – Our Lord Jesus Christ the Lord of Glory

A) The description serves as a fitting contrast to the topic James is discussing in this section


B) The Lord of Glory describes all that is honorable, all that is right, all that is majestic / special


C) Now that and partiality or prejudice, discrimination – don’t go together


D) Can’t hold on to Christ w/ one had and partiality with another

1) Two mutually exclusive currents – They don’t fit!

Football linemen and Ballet – Doesn’t fit

Sardines and Hotfudge Sundays

Eggs on Pizza


Jesus the Lord of Glory and Partiality Discrimination and Prejudice really have no place together


James is clear, faith in Christ & partiality are incompatible!


Break down this section in this way:

V 2-4 The Problem is illustrated


V 5-7 Seeing People the way that God does.


V 8-11 Seeing the Problem the way that God does


V 12-13 Seeing the Possibilities the way that God does


Start with The Problem is illustrated

2 For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, 3 and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool," 4 have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?




The scene is of a congregation gathering for worship when two different men walk into the service.

A) Rich guy and a Poor guy – RG – Fine Clothes { Fine = bright attractive


B) PG = filthy clothes { old, dirty unattractive


C)) RG = Gold rings – Bling bling on !


D) RG get to sit / PG gets to stand

  RG gets shown a Seat –PG gets shown the floor


E) RG is given Prefferential treatment – PG is treated like he doesn’t even exist.


Notice in v.4 James says by doing that they show themselves to be Judges with evil motives

AA) Part of the problem with this type of behavior is we basically separated pp into two groups: The cans and the cannots


A) Here is what I mean – it is easy in this situation for those Church leaders to look at the rich guy – CAN


B) He can bring influence – He can give – He can bring others - - leader people follow

1) So we are interested in him


Cc) Does this happen today?


C) I know of a man who is very wealthy – Several times he has given to a non profit organization

1) After giving a large gift – he was asked to join their board


D) What is sad about that is the groups really didn’t know anything about him – saved / good guy –

1) Asked to be on the board for one reason – He can give a lot.


E) James says: Those are evil motives – not right


What is equally bad is when we look at another individual – label him a cannot

A) No resources / no influence / no perceived leadership skills –they get labeled a cannot


B) They get ignored  because they cannot bring anything to the table –

1) Such discrimination is Evil -


Jesus Knew all about Discrimination:

A) He was the kid who was accussed of being illegitimate


B) He was considered to be from the wrong side of the tracks – Nazareth


C) He was thought to be uneducated – because he didn’t study in “their schools”


He knew all about Discrimination- but he didn’t discriminate at all

A) He reached out to Jews and Gentiles alike

Rich and poor 


B) Men and Women – Young and old


C) The religious and the rebellious – heart for all of them.


D) That leads us to consider #2 We need to see people the way that God does. Verses 5-7


5 Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? 7 Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?


Now the first thing we need to make clear here is that in v.5-6a James is not saying that all poor pp are saved

A)Nor is he saying in V.6b-7 that all rich pp are lost !


B) What he is saying is things are not always what they appear to be.


C) When describing the poor he is describing the rich poor. –

1) V.5 He says that they are rich in faith


It is true that those who are often disadvantaged in the eyes of the world – can have a tremendous spiritual advantage

A) Sometimes those who have great physical advantages – can be spiritually disadvantaged


B) Example: Which person is going to be more inclined to pray fervently for a miracle when there is a health issue in their family


C) The poor person who doesn’t have insurance, who can’t afford to go to the doctor

1) Or the Rich guy who has insurance or even could just write a Check to cover any medical expenses


D) Those who have less – often are those – who have more in the way of faith

1) James refers to them as the Heirs of the Kingdom – they just seem to know – all that Jesus has for them



They can be some of the most exciting Christians to be around – because their God is so big –

A) They truly believe that God can do anything – there is nothing that is outside the realm of their prayer possibility


B) Nothing is too small to pray for – nothing is too big to pray for  -

1) They experience miracles often – big & small


C) They are often pp who are so heavenly minded and kingdom focused – because they have so little in this life to be worried about


D) For them it is easy to believe and to live and to look forward to the fact – that the best is yet to come


So He is describing the Poor who are rich.



But He is also describing the Rich who are really poor {Laodecia – you say …./ I say……

A) Sometimes those who are rich – more well off – can lack faith – pray little –


B) Easy for them to write a Check – if God doesn’t come thru – they still have options


C) Sometimes it is hard for them to really focus on heaven – because things are pretty good here


Now I believe that James had a specific group of rich pp in mind here.

A) In his day – Religious rich – called the Sanhedrin

71 members, the religious ruling class


B) Most were Saducees who didn’t believe in Rez – lived primarily for this life


C) They oppressed the poor – took advantage of the poor

D) They were some of the very ones who controlled the temple Swap meet in Jesus’ day

1) Recall – Jesus drove out the money changers


E) Some of the leaders in the Sanhedrin were behind that.


Pt is we need to see pp the way that God does –

Remember what God spoke to Samuel – Man looks on the outward …….God looks at the heart

A) Sometimes those who are poor – spiritually very rich - No spiritual disadvantage at all


B) On the other hand those who are worldly rich can be at a tremendous spiritual disadvantage.


C) Now the 3rd thing we want to see is the Problem the way that God does: Verses 8-11



James 2:8-11

8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well; 9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.


“James sees the law as a seamless garment which, when ripped in one place, tears the whole garment.”

A) This doesn’t mean we’ve committed every individual sin mentioned in the Law, but that we’ve broken the “seamless garment of the whole law!”


B) Now in Matt 22:36 Jesus was asked the question

36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?"


37 Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'  38 This is the first and great commandment.  39 And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'  40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." 


C) This was sometimes referred to as the great commandment – here – the Royal law

1) Royal because it is given by the King of kings – and it is the King of all the laws


Luke10 We read of another time when Lawyer asks Jesus how to inherit eternal life- Jesus responded by asking him, well, what are the commandments?

A) The Lawyer quoted these two – Love God with..  And Love your neighbor as yourself


B) Jesus replied, you have answered well, do this & live –

1) But then the Lawyer asked – well, who is my neighbor?

C) Which led Jesus to tell the story of the good Samaritan

1) After hearing the story we realize that the Lawyer was asking the wrong question


D) The right question is not who is my neighbor – but who can I be a neighbor to

1) Answer is anyone who has a need. Anyone that God puts in my path


E) Pt is from God’s pt of view when we show partiality we are not being a neighbor at all

1) We are breaking the royal law – which means we are sinning.

2) Not just poor ediquete or bad manners – Sin!



What is really wild is the sins that James compares it to Adultery and Murder.

A) Now does he compare it to these two for shock value –show that God considers this a big deal ?


B) Possible – but I believe the reason the HS inspires James to compare it to these two sins is deeper.


C): Adultery is the ultimate betrayal – ultimate break of trust

1) When we show partiality against someone that God loves –


D) Someone Christ died for – God chose – we are betraying God

1) In the same way that a person who says I love you and then commits adultery – betrays that love


Murder: Is the ultimate disregard for others!

A) What we are doing when we show partiality is we are taking a life that God deems as valuable and saying it isn’t valuable at all.


B) This person matters – but this person doesn’t


C) I wonder how many others like Ghandi have had their potential faith murdered – by discrimination

1) Who will never come to Church – because they or someone they know were slighted


D) I think it is possible that the HS inspires James to use these two examples to illustrate that partiality has a similar effect on God and upon Man


The Problem that James deals with is Rich and Poor

But what are some of the other ways we can be guilty of showing partiality?

A) Whenever we ignore or marginalize someone:


B) Because they are unattractive/

1) They are old – we are young – vice versa

2) Not cool

3) Over weight

4) Race                          5) Divorced – Mike Nelson

C) Whenever we do that – Breaks God’s heart –

It can destroy a life – and it is sin


D) That is how we need to see the Problem the way that God does.


#4 We need to see the possibilities the way that God does!    Read verses 12-13

12 So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.


Now remember that one of the major themes in the book of James is that true faith shows itself in actions

A) James is illustrating that point again here in this section tackling the problem of partiality


B) He begins in v.1 by stating how Jesus the Lord of glory and partiality don’t mix {Mutually exclusive


C) He continues here in these verses basically illustrating – one who has been touched by mercy will be merciful.


D) Notice how the NLT renders these verses


12 So whenever you speak, or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law of love, the law that set you free. 13 For there will be no mercy for you if you have not been merciful to others. But if you have been merciful, then God's mercy toward you will win out over His judgment against you.

Remember when Jesus told the story about the man who owed the king a great debt – to illustrate will call it a debt of 200K

A) Begs and pleads – the King showed him mercy and forgave his debt


B) But then that same man goes out and finds another man who owed him a debt of 2,000

1) The man who was just forgiven his huge debt demands that this guy pay him


C) The man pleads for mercy/ asks for more time

1) No way – he has him thrown in prison


D) When the king hears about it he is furious – this man was ungrateful about the mercy the king had shown him


That is the pt – if we don’t realize the mercy we have been shown – not grateful for it

A) We are going to be less likely to show mercy to others!


B) We are going to be more demanding, less gracious


C)I think one of the biggest potential problems in the Church today is: We who have been saved for a while can forget what it is like to be lost


D) We learn Christianeeze – talk the talk

1) We hang with Christian friends

E)And there is a good shift that happens in our hearts –Like God, we start to hate sin!

1) Things we used to love – now we loathe and that is a good thing


But what is not a good thing and is not like God at all  In our hating of sin we can start to loathe the sinner

A) God loathes sin / but loves the sinner


B) We can make the tragic mistake of loathing both

1) The very pp that God wants to touch – we disdain


C) The very pp we should reach out to we recoil from


D) What we need to see are the possibilities that God sees –

1) These are people who need to be shown the same mercy that has been shown to us.


PT. is when you truly realize that you have been touched by God’s mercy –



B) The Possibilities are: We are all recipients of God’s mercy –


C) Regardless of Status/ race/ age/ gender – whatever

The mercy of God is available to all


D) Possibility becomes that every person I encounter has the potential to be won by the love of God

Listen, you’re here today and don’t know Christ:

A) Great news for you – God doesn’t show partiality


B) If you turn to Him – He will not give you the cold shoulder – not play hard to get

1) He is not be stand offish or aloof


C) He will not be reserved – No He is ready to lavish upon you grace and mercy and love

1) Forgiveness /2) Freedom from Guilt



D) He wants to bless you – Beyond belief – Just turn to Him today!

1) Admit you are a sinner – you need mercy – He will meet you today



Close with this thought:  Church – Disneyland is called  the happiest place on earth{ really isn’t

A) Church should be called CCV – Most loving place on earth


B) Most forgiving / most gracious / most understanding


C)We who have been touched by the Lord of Glory – lets glorify Him in how we treat others – Amen !