We all have the human tendency to set some people on a pedestal, while showing disregard to others. We can justify our feelings, for sure. But, what does the Bible say about showing partiality? What’s at the root of your favouritism? James reminds you and I that we cannot claim to be a Christian and, at the same time, treat anyone with less than total love and respect.
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. James 2:8&9.
Text in Context
Remember James audience (read James 2:1-7)? They were those who had been scattered abroad. Many of whom were being persecuted. Most were oppressed by the rich and elite. These were believers in their synagogues, preaching Christ. A worthy cause, don’t you think?
They were ministering to the broken hearted, while operating with zero resources. Most of the brothers (and sisters) were poor themselves, so there was little financial aide. They had many new converts but not enough people to do all the ministry work.
With that in mind, imagine it was your church. Two people walk in one Sunday morning; one appeared to be wealthy and well educated, the other poor and unschooled. Your church is desperate for money and human resources. I’m not asking what “should” you do. I’m asking, to whom would you dedicate your time and attention?
While James writes to the church in regard to favouring the rich over the poor, the lesson applies to us in church and in our personal lives. My aim is to expose just a few of the ways in which we (you and I) show partiality and rationalize our behaviour. James said if we show partiality, that’s a sin and we are convicted. Yikes!
According to the dictionary, favouritism is the preferential attitude and treatment of a person or a group over another having equal claims and rights. Equal rights! How relative to our culture. Demonstrations are happening around the world. Like James, my question is, what is all their protests accomplishing?
Likewise, I love a good Bible study. I believe there’s much value in getting together and wrestling with God’s word. However, if all we ever do is get together and talk about what “should be done” and no one is actually living it out, then aren’t we just like the believers James wrote to? Isn’t our faith dead if we aren’t living it out?
What do we believe about God?
The Bible records many stories of people who picked favourites. Isaac loved Esau more. Rebecca preferred Jacob. Jacob favoured Joseph. Since the beginning of time, people have been picking favourites. The way we treat everyone indicates what we really believe about God.
We all live with the false belief that God favours some more than others. In addition, we acknowledge that every word recorded in the Bible was authorized by God. Look up the following verses.
1. In your Bible, circle the term of endearment for each person:
- James 2:23
Abraham was known as a friend of God. Moses? The most humble man on all the earth. David, a man after God’s own heart! Mary was acknowledged as highly favoured by God. Obviously, God had a “special” place in his heart for some more so than others, right?
2. It’s been said that “when people get used to preferential treatment, equal treatment seems like discrimination.” The Apostle Peter believed the Jews were favoured far above all other nations. He was shocked to learn otherwise. Look up the following verse. What truth did Peter discover?
- Acts 10:34
Favouritism is human nature
We all want to be the favourite. My six year old grandson, Carter, often asks me, “Nana, who do you love more, me or Evi? Evi is Carter’s 3 year old sister. In response, I usually ask Carter if he would be happy if I told him I loved Evi more than him. He wouldn’t, of course. Two brothers, James and John, asked the same question of Jesus. Mark 10:36.
Parents often praise one child, while rarely finding good in another. Employer’s give preferential treatment to some more than others. Teachers have their pets. Have you ever been on the wrong side of favouritism? If so, how did it feel? We all want to be favoured, but no one wants to be on the flip-side. Friend, favouritism is human nature, not godly character.
Let’s be honest with ourselves:
- 1). In the midst of an argument, how often have you believed that God is on YOUR side and against your “opponent(s)”? I say “how often” because I assume you’re a little like me.
a). Almost always. b). Sometimes. c). Not often. d). Never.
2). What self-perspective could lead you to conclude that God will choose your side?
a). I have Biblical examples. b). My moral standard is higher. c). I deserve to see immediate justice done. d). My own past failures aren’t as bad as others. e). Other reasons.
3). How do you want God to deal with you when you are in the wrong?
Does God have favourites?
In varying situations and to varying degrees, we live with the false belief that God does pick favourites. In doing so, we make God out to be just like us! The false belief is that God’s love, His forgiveness, the way He deals with people has conditions. This thinking seems reasonable and, at times, we welcome the false ideology. The more sobering thought comes to light when the shoe is on the other foot.
Look up the following verses and answer the related questions:
- 1. How often does God pick sides?
Especially when others act in sinful/ungodly/mean-spirited ways, what would you like God to do with/to them? When you and I reap the consequences of others poor choices, it’s easy for us to believe that God IS on “my” side.
Consider Paul’s words:
- 2. Why God doesn’t choose sides:
Even if you and I hold the upper hand in a given situation, according to this verse, we are all slaves of One Master. The only sure killer of the false belief of God’s favouritism is the hard truth: the state of my own soul is no better than any other! We are all equal in the sight of God. My sin is no more acceptable to God than another’s. Your “good” deeds do not make you more righteous. Jesus was unimpressed by the outward behaviours. Always and only, Jesus looked at the heart.
- 3. BUT, if you show partiality, you are committing _______ and are _____________ by the law as __________.
- 4. How will God treat those who have harboured favouritism for some and treated others with anything less than respect and dignity?
Not only is God not like us, He’s completely incapable of choosing sides – or favourites! He will treat everyone the same.
What’s at the root of your favouritism?
Take a look at your social circle. There’s nothing wrong with having a few like-minded close friends. Even Jesus had an inner-circle. However, when you get beyond your inner-circle, who have you surrounded yourself with? More importantly, why?
Some people are just down-right hard to love. In other cases, we view people in terms of how they might bring some benefit to us. We set up “boundaries” because we perceive a threat of some sort. How about this one: It’s not “my” job. I’m already volunteering in other places. I’ve got my own issues to deal with. Let someone else take care of him/her. Do any of these excuses sound familiar?
- 1. If you were to radically follow the command in James, how, if at all, would your social circle be different?
2. According to 1 John 4:20, is it possible to love God and detest another?
3. The word love, in 1 John 4:20, means “I love, wish well to, take pleasure in, long for; denotes the love of reason, esteem.” What does John call those who show a lack of love for some?
4. If you are in church ministry, who are the people you gravitate towards? Why?
5. Likewise, who are the people you generally try to avoid? Why?
6. Are their people in your circle that you believe will benefit you, in some way?
Who are your Guests?
Read Luke 14:13-14
- 1. With whom was Jesus speaking?
2. What did Jesus ask of his disciples?
3. What was Jesus promise for obedience?
4. When would the promise be received?
5. Did any person(s) come to your mind as you read this parable?
6. According to Matthew 5:46, when are you actually credited with loving others?
7. For whatever reason; are their people in your midst that you ignore? Are there some people you would serve begrudgingly, while others you are only too happy to help? Do you have a favourite sister, brother, parent or child? What would God have you do?
- 7. Good or bad, how you treat others is as if you have done so to Jesus. What is the promised outcome for how you and I treat all others?
The way we treat others indicates what we really believe about God.
- Hebrews 13:2
1. One final thought: have you ever turned your back on someone Jesus loves? Conversely, when God puts an opportunity in front of you, and you choose to treat even the unloveable with compassion and respect, you just NEVER know; it could be an angel.
You may remember from the video introduction to your study, Coram Deo means we live in the presence of, under the authority of, and to the honor and glory of God. Whether we discriminate between race, social class, profession, lifestyle, education, level of spiritual maturity or simply by appearance, there’s no justification for our biases.
According to John McArthur, to love your neighbour as yourself means, “To the same degree, with the same intensity; to the same benefit, with the same protection; the same concern for health, and care, and spiritual well-being, and growth in grace and holiness; and Christlikeness and all those things, you are to be concerned with others as much as you are with yourself. And if that law is obeyed, there will be no partiality!”
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