SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
August 10, 2008
Partiality and Prejudice Dishonor Our Lord
Key Verse: Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith? – James 2:5
We might as well admit it: This teaching of James makes all of us uncomfortable. Our sinful nature makes us sitting ducks for the Tempter. We are so easily sucked into attitudes of partiality and prejudice. Favoritism is a sin that dogs us all in our journey with Christ.
Is there a church anywhere that welcomes a wealthy man and a poor man with equal gusto? I doubt it. I have to admit that as a pastor I was often ashamed that I usually greeted a wealthy guest with more enthusiasm than I did a poor man in rags. Most of the congregations I have served have shared with me this prejudice. We welcomed the well-to-do with open arms but seldom gave the poor the time of day.
James exposes our sinful attitudes. As we read his words the Spirit nudges us to repent and ask God to give us impartial love, like His own, for the rich and the poor. Impartiality is not a goal that can be achieved by Friday night but it is a goal toward which we must strive unceasingly.
The plain truth is that when we dishonor the poor we also dishonor our Lord. Followers of Jesus cannot honor him as long as they tolerate discrimination in their hearts. Christ is never served by prejudice. It is a disease of the soul for which we must seek treatment from the Great Physician. He has the power to cleanse this, and every sin, from our hearts.
The challenge in dealing with our prejudice is not merely to become willing to “help” the poor. Jesus raises the bar much higher for us. He insists that we learn to accept them as brothers and sisters who are every bit as worthy of our love as the wealthy with whom we like to socialize. We must not justify discrimination anywhere and certainly not in the Body of Christ. Only a spirit of loving impartiality is worthy of the fellowship of believers. As we all know, the ground is level at the foot of the Cross.
Our goal should be to grow to the point that we may welcome the poor and the wealthy with equal enthusiasm. The wealthy have a place in the kingdom too. Jesus associated with the rich and the poor without favoritism. He desires that we do the same. We must never forget that Christ has not “suggested” that we love God and our neighbor; he has commanded us to do so. This Jesus made perfectly clear: His followers must love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. Every day that is the first business of the day. This is what James calls “the royal law.”
James gets our attention by warning us that if we fail to extend mercy to others, God will judge us without mercy. We should not skim lightly over these words: “For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). The New Living Translation helps us see more clearly what James says:
There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.
Leave it to Eugene Peterson to make it even plainer:
Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time (The Message).
Mercy wins. How true! God’s mercy wins us to faith in Christ. Christ and his Word, planted in our hearts, produce the fruit of the Spirit within us. The Christ within replaces our prejudice with his love, enabling us to honor all people with merciful impartiality. When this happens “the kingdom comes” and God’s will is “done on earth as it is in heaven”!
Let it be, Lord, let it be!
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