According to Jesus’ younger brother James, authentic faith impacts our actions and attitudes. Let’s consider how James 2:1-13 applies to us today.
Be servants, not snobs. Jesus didn’t focus on others’ looks, popularity, or socioeconomic status. He rubbed shoulders with a rough crowd at dinner parties, engaging in conversation with low-reputation guests. He blessed children others tried to shoo away. He sought out the sick and befriended the despised.
Believers in Jesus “must not show favoritism” (James 2:1). Instead, we should recognize and repent of our prejudices. Snobbery is robbery. It robs people of dignity and prevents us from discovering wonderful friends among those who appear to lack power, prestige, or clout. It’s wrong to treat some people like diamonds and others like dirt.
Reject the “tyranny of the or” and embrace the “genius of the and.” In his book, Built to Last, Jim Collins argues that successful companies embrace both purpose and profit, continuity and change, freedom and responsibility, discipline and creativity, personal humility and professional determination. In the church, we value both grace and truth.
We should resist false choices our polarized society tries to force upon us. As “believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 1), should we focus on justice or mercy? Why not pursue both? In Christ, mercy and justice coexist. Can’t we empathize with those who endure racial injustice while at the same time supporting fair, responsible policing? Can’t we protect unborn babies while also caring about God’s image-bearers at every stage of life? Can’t the church do both evangelism and service—preaching Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection while also bringing good news to the poor?
Join your church’s “welcome team.” James pictures two guests who show up for church.
A fashionably dressed visitor pulls his shiny new chariot into the parking lot and flashes gold bling as he walks in. Then a poor man comes in wearing a faded tunic and sandals he got at the Dollar Store in Jerusalem. No chariot for him. He can’t even afford a worn-out donkey. If everyone greets the rich guest and gives him a comfortable seat but ignores the poor visitor, James asks, “Have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (v. 4).
The church shouldn’t be a clique. Do we give everyone a sincere, warm welcome, or do we play favorites and mainly schmooze with the popular people? Do we go to church to worship and serve, or to consume and criticize? Our main question shouldn’t be, “How was the sermon and the music?” We should ask, “What new friends did you make? Who did you pray for?”
Treat others like royalty. King Jesus gave us the royal law, “Love your neighbor” (v. 8).
How would you treat Jesus if he walked into the room? With love! How did you want to be treated when you were a teenager? How will you want to be treated when you are old? How would you want to be treated if you were the new kid at school or the only person of color or the only female in the crowd?
Grace is such a powerful force that even Jesus’ death on the cross became a sign of victory boldly announcing, “Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (v. 13). Do our lives display that same message?
Personal Challenge: Discuss these questions with a trusted Christian friend:
- What signs of snobbery or prejudice do we find in our hearts?
- Are our identities and attitudes being shaped more by the culture or by Christ?
- How could we improve the way our church welcomes new people?