James 2:1-13: The Test of Impartial Love

James 2:1-13: The Test of Impartial Love

Last night I had the privilege of teaching the flock.


Title was “The Test of Impartial Love”, text James 2:1-13.


You can listen here (filter by my name, IE works best). Sermon notes below.


Blessings.



James 2:1-13 (NKJV)
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?
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?
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.
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. 


Over the last 2 weeks we’ve been studying  a lot about being tested, or bring ‘proven’.

And as we all know, testing, or proving seems unfair at the time it happens. It’s hard.

But we find that if we don’t give up, and we persevere, over time it toughens us up. It gives us thick skin. Just like someone who is a builder, or a gardener – at first we get blisters, rashes, cuts and sore muscles. I can remember when I first owned my own house. Suddenly there was all this maintenance to do. There were lawns to cut, gardens to weed, fences to repair, decks that needed building, painting that needed touching up. All this work.

But it had to be done. I can remember moving these huge round retaining wall logs, and 20kg bags of cement bown our steep bank so that the builder could start work on a deck for us.

It was hard, and for 4 days afterwards, I couldn’t raise my arms above the horizontal. I couldn’t hold a coffee mug because the tendons in my hands were locked solid – I needed 2 hands. I couldn’t even hold a pen to write with at work. Thankfully these days most of my work is done on computers.  

But you know, after time things became easier. My muscles strengthened. And callouses grew over the blisters to protect my hands. In short, I hardened up. I guess you could say I took a concrete pill. Yes, I could have paid someone to do the work, but having come through the other side, I’m glad I put the effort in myself at the time.

And that is what James means when he says:

James 1:4(NKJV)


4  But let patience have itsperfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.


We want to be perfect and complete. Nobody likes a whinging Christian that is easily offended or defeated.


And as Jarryd said last week, it’s so easy to become the Christian version of Eeyore ‘Woe is me. Why does this keep happening to me? Oh, well, I will just have to accept that this is how I’ll stay’.
These are thin-skinned people. They are people that give in, rather than with Christ’s help, push through.

It’s like they’ve been baptised in lemon juice, or something. They become sour and bitter.

The Christian life doesn’t come easy. It’s not meant to be easy. Jesus Himself promised that there would be trials and persecution for us. In the pabable of the sower, when He talks about the seed that falls on the rocky ground, He says in   

Mark 4:16-17 (NKJV)


16  These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness;
17  and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.

He didn’t say ‘if tribulation or persecution comes’, He said when it comes. And if it has’t come yet, then be prepared, although I doubt very much that there’s anyone listening who hasn’t been tested yet. Tribulation and trials start the day you become a Christian.


And because your conscience is now fine-tuned, you are more aware of when you are being tempted or tested. Your outside influences become more discernable. I often compare it to the difference between a squealy short-wave radio, to high definition fibre-optic clarity.

This makes it a lot harder for the Christian, because we now know when we are giving into temptation – our consciences are convicting us, screaming out at us. Before we were Christians, we knew, but we didn’t care. Now, we know, and we know we would be hurting God and ourselves if we gave into it.

We can’t stop being tempted because we live in a fallen world. But we can certainly limit it.
It would be silly if someone said ‘I can’t stop watching porn on the internet, but I’m not going to put any accountabilities on my internet time’. Common sense still has a part to play play in the Christians’ mind.

Yes, the non-believer has no excuse, but the Christian has even less excuse. But the good news is that the Christian knows that forgiveness and healing is available at the foot of the cross. As the old saying goes “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven”.

So, last week in James we learnt from Jarryd that in general trials come from outward sources, and temptation comes from inward. Our bodies are constantly receiving signals from outside sources, but the flesh decides whether it will be tempted by them, and chooses whether or not to give into it.

And in chapter 2, we are going to read about another test – The Test of Impartial Love.



And I’ve broken it down even further:

Favouritism abuses our Faith to the Core v1,4

Favouritism abuses our Fellowship in the Church v2-7 

Favouritism abuses our Father and His Commandments v8-12

Pray…


James 2:1-13 (NKJV)


… 


Favouritism abuses our Faith to the Core v1,4


James 2:1-4(NKJV)


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

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 first thing we notice here is that Paul is not just telling us to pull our heads in, or buck up our ideas. He says in verse 1 that we aren’t just being unfriendly, we are actually toying with our faith. In fact he uses the phrase ‘the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality’.
We tend to gloss over that part, because we want to see the example of what he is getting at. But it’s there for a reason. It’s there to give us a totally different perspective. What Paul is saying is that when we show partiality, we shame our faith in Christ, and we shame His work on the cross.

Christ, as we know, died for all. He was pierced for our transgressions, and He was bruised for our iniquity (Isa 53:5).


Romans 3:21-26 (NKJV)
21  But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,
22  even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;
23  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24  being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
25  whom God set forth asa propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,
26  to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 


When we show favouritism to others, then we are saying that their faith is not as important as our own. But as we know, all have sinned. There is no one better or worse off than me. I’m the biggest sinner in the room here. You can all disagree, but as I’m doing the teaching today, I get the last word.

So, by acting partially, I’m holding my faith in Christ with contempt, because I’m saying that Christ’s sacrifice for me, or this person, is more important than that person.

Paul also says in verse 4


James 2:4(NKJV)
4  have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 


There is a right and wrong way to judge. John 7:24 says


John 7:24(NKJV)
24  Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”


We can only judge according to what the Bible says is right or wrong. But judging on outward appearances means according to verse 4 we are judges with evil thoughts. How do we know people’s hearts?

Imagine if Christ showed that sort of partiality on the cross, then the only people in heaven would be the rich and good-looking. And I would miss out on both counts. Christ judges the heart. More about that later.

So, Favouritism abuses our Faith to the Core, and secondly

Favouritism abuses our Fellowship in the Church (v2-7)


James 2:2-7(NKJV)
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?
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? 


It’s pretty obvious that when we show partiality against someone else, we are placing them above or below ourselves. It comes as quickly as the speed of thought. We make lighning quick judgements on everyone, and we compartmentalise people. Old=wise. Young=foolish. Skinny=selective eater. Obese=eat anything. Suit=rich. Rags=poor.

Naturally, we place the rich above us, and the poor below us. And we determine that we ourselves are the yardstick for normality, we are the standard by which we rank others.
But these verses speak of the dangers of doing this. And as we know, God’s world is the opposite of ours.

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (NKJV)
26  For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.
27  But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;
28  and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are,
29  that no flesh should glory in His presence.
30  But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God–and righteousness and sanctification and redemption–
31  that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”  


In the time of writing, it was Jewish custom to wear rings on their fingers to show sonship or nobility to a family. If you remember the Prodigal Son, when he returned, his father said:


Luke 15:22(NKJV)
22  But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on hisfeet.


And verse 6 & 7 of James 2 tells us that we dishonour the poor man by praising the rich:

The rich oppress you – literally to tyrannize you. In NT times they would expect favour for their status (these were mainly Saducees). And they would use this favour as an excuse to control and abuse the church. 
Attention is lavished on him, and he would expect to exert more control as his reward.

The rich drag you into courts – the poor person would require a loan to get by. They didn’t own any land. They would work the land they lived on, and it didn’t take much to ruin him, maybe a drought one year or a flood the next. So he would have to approach a rich man for a loan. And this money would attract horrendous interest rates, which could never be paid back. So they would drag you through the religious court system.

The rich blaspheme your noble name. As a result, your name would be slandered. They would be put down as a person of bad repute. And of course that means that it would become harder again for that person to draw down another loan. And the cycle keeps going like a spiral. The rich man becomes richer, and the poor man becomes poorer. 

If we judge a rich man based on his outward appearance, we automatically assume he must be of noble character – a moral, upright citizen. Is that always the case? How would we know, for we can’t judge the heart.

In the same way, if we judge a poor man based on his outward appearance, we automatically assume he must be of a questionable character, or from a poor background. He’s made some silly decisions that caused his demise.

But the bible tells us that the poor are to be exalted.  

If we honour the rich person, and opress the poor man, we become just like the world. And we don’t want to be like the world.

God says he shows no partiality (Rom 2:11), and neither should we.

And that’s how Favouritism abuses our fellowship. We end up showing everyone that staus matters. That money matters. Intelligence matters. Their outward appearances become the standard. 

And the danger of this is that we isolate those in our midst that Jesus wants to bless. Those that are humble and meek. Those that are poor in spirit. But that’s not the only reason.

Favouritism abuses our Fellowship in the Church, but also 

Favouritism abuses our Father and His Commandments (v8-12)

Ultimately, why should we not show favouritism?

Because God commanded us to love one another as ourselves. See verse 8 & 9:


James 2:8-9(NKJV)
8  If you really fulfill theroyal 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. 


This is where things start to hot up. James links back to the very words of Jesus, where He sums up the whole law:


Matthew 22:35-40 (NKJV)
35  Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying,
36  “Teacher, which isthe great commandment in the law?”
37  Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORDyour 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.”


So James is saying that the law of loving your neighbour as yourself helps you show impartiality towards others. And when you think about it, doesn’t that make perfect sense? What better way to aid you in being impartial, than treating everybody else the way you would treat yourself?

And how do we treat ourselves? Well, we make sure we get good food.
We wash ourselves.
We make sure we have enough clean clothes in the cupboard, and if we don’t, we wash the dirty ones. 
When we go to church, we sit in the seats that aid us to give our worship, and see and hear the teacher when he teaches. 

Let’s turn that around from internal to external.

We make sure someone else gets good food.
We make sure someone else has clean clothes, and if they don’t, provide or wash them for them.
We let others sit in the good places in church so that they can see and hear better.  

This helps us become more impartial towards others, because we aren’t judging anyone based on appearance anymore, because we are loving our neighbour as ourself, regardless of what they look like. We apply the same law to everybody.

But this isn’t the be all and end all. Unfortunately we are not perfect. We fail. Constantly. That’s why James says if you fulfill the law you do well. In fact you do really well. A show of hands, please, who has fulfilled this perfectly? Yeah, I thought as much!
And the moment you show partiality, you’re done for. Look at verse 9 & 10:


James 2:9-10 (NKJV)
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. 


The analogy I use of the law of God is like a balloon. I have a balloon here that has the numbers 1=10 on it. Lets say I break commandment number 8 – I steal something. If I take pin, and push it through number 8, what happens? Yes, the whole balloon explodes in my face.

That’s why we can’t rely on the law to save ourselves, because no matter how hard I try, I can’t keep it. Yes, it’s good if I love my neighbour as myself, but what good does it do me if I take God’s name in vain?

James says

James 2:11-12 (NKJV)
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.
12  So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.


So what he’s saying is: try to do the best you can, but don’t act arrogant like you’ve nailed it. Instead, act as if you have transgressed every one of God’s laws. And that will drive you the cross on your knees.
At the cross, we receive mercy from the one who has fulfilled the law on our behalf.

Let’s get another balloon out to prove this point. Let’s pick another commandment, number 3 – I take the Lord’s name in vain. This is what happens when Christ, who fulfilled the law for me, covers me. I stick a pin in it, and noting happens. 


James 2:13(NKJV)
13  For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

What he is saying is that if we refuse to show mercy towards our neighbour – to love them as ourselves – then it proves that we are not of God, and deserve His judgement. And we all know what God does to people who have no regard to His laws? An eternal punishment n a lake of fire.

But if we love our neighbour as we love ourselves – show mercy towards them, then we reflect the love and mercy Christ has shown to us. Our law keeping becomes good works, because we want to please God. David will expand on that further next week.


Let’s pray…

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