As we move into the second chapter of James, the writer turned his attention to favoritism–the manner in which you view and treat someone based on externals. James uses some big buts to clarify, this is contrary to the way God views and treats people.
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?
The but contrasts behaviors based on observing the outward appearance of guests. This guest looks to have money and standing. That guest doesn’t. Hurry! Make a place for the affluent guest to sit!
None of us like the scene this passage depicts. Yet, if we’re honest, the tendency does exist. I’ll share two experiences from my own church-going past.
Many years ago the youth ministry of a certain church I attended had become very successful attracting kids from unchurched families in the community. Numbers swelled at youth events. As you might imagine, so did costs and needs for staff. Do you know where this is going? A church board meeting–that’s where it went. Several people voiced ‘concerns’ over the increasing costs and needs that were generated by a large group of youth whose parents weren’t involved in the life of the church; weren’t tithing; weren’t volunteering.
The second experience is a part of the same setting. When the ‘concerns’ about costs and needs didn’t sway church leaders, a second effort surfaced. Parents of some of the churched youth came with ‘concerns’ over the effect unchurched youth might have on their children. Those kids come from homes that allow secular music and television shows, video games and … Did you see the kid with green hair? What if the church-going kids pick up such behavior?
Green hair AND parents who don’t come to church–the decision was made to revisit the youth ministry’s aims.
James offers a couple more big buts about it in the passage. He closes the teaching with this: If you really keep the royal law found in the Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.