James 2:2: “Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in.”
James is setting the scene for the discussion on favoritism. Remember, favoritism is “Making a value judgment on another person based upon unbiblical criteria.” James will examine what we are to do when they walk into a meeting, whether it be a church gathering (corporate worship, small group, a meal together, etc.) or any meeting for that matter.
We will notice that the rich or poor are not condemned, but the people’s attitude towards both. But that’s for a later blog. Let’s look at these two groups of people, the rich and poor.
In those days, rings were a sign of affluence because if you didn’t own them, you could rent them. Similarly, church history is full of people paying for positions in the church and even paying for pews with locks. My family wasn’t wealthy by any means growing up, but we had our pew. It was the one in the very back that had plenty of legroom for my 6’4” tall dad. If you came to the 11 o’clock service, you didn’t sit there because if you did, you’d be asked to move. 🙂
These rich people had let money rule their hearts. It had become an idol, a sin. Jesus even said it is hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. One of the greatest hindrances to a wealthy person accepting Christ is pride. But, one can use money for God’s glory!
These poor people wore shabby, dirty clothes. They were also stinky! I live in a city with a large number of people who are experiencing homelessness. They don’t have regular access to showers, washing machines, or other services to keep themselves clean. There is a definite odor. However, they are still people uniquely made in the image of God and deserving of all the love and respect as anybody else. One of the greatest hindrances to a poor person accepting Christ is bitterness.
Proverbs 22:2: “Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is the Maker of them all.”
Some people assume that prosperity is a sign of blessing. This is not true! Spirituality is not measured by your bank account; this is why the lie of prosperity theology is so evil.
Money is not inherently evil, of course, but if it is used as a measure of personal worth, either consciously or unconsciously, then we have fallen prey to the standards of our culture. In ways subtle and overt, we do crave status and wealth. We are also overly impressed by other markers of social standing, such as attire, profession, and even social polish. James would warn us against the subtle power these cultural markers may have over the Christian community.
1 Timothy 6:17-19: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way, they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
Some questions to consider:
-Do you treat wealthy people differently than poor people?
-How can you avoid showing favoritism based on how much money somebody has?
-How do you accurately measure someone’s worth?