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James: A Devotional on Partiality

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"My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 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. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,”[a] you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,”[b] also said, “You shall not murder.”[c] If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment." - James 2:1-13 NIV

James 2:1-13 gives us a close look at the problem of partiality that James was confronting in the church.

The letter of James is one of the oldest in the New Testament, so we can see the sin of partiality goes back a long way, and, of course, we still see it today in many ways.

James was writing to an age filled with prejudice and hatred based on class, ethnicity, nationality and religious background.  

People were categorized as Jew or Gentile, slave or free, rich or poor, Greek or Barbarian, etc., and he gives an illustration in regards to the rich versus poor; a well-dressed man coming into the church and being favored over someone poorly dressed.  

He talks about the man’s bright, shining garments, his fine apparel, and his gold rings, in comparison to one dressed in rags, and says that the well-dressed person should not be treated with more courtesy or respect; for example, they might be given the “good seats” or the best location within the church.

H. Edmund Moffatt in his commentary on James notes that gold rings were a common way the wealthy would show their wealth and that people could actually rent gold rings, for perhaps a special occasion.

Well, what is partiality, exactly?  

It’s exalting someone strictly on a superficial or external basis alone.  

Jesus never did that; did He? No. He treated everyone with respect, and we’re to do the same thing.  

Deut. 10:17 and Acts 10:34-36 tell us that God shows no partiality, and Matthew 22:16 says God is no respecter of persons, and I love that.  

He doesn’t care if you’ve got a doctorate degree or a third grade education.  

He doesn’t care if you were voted most likely to succeed or never were voted for anything at all.
God looks at the heart, according to I Sam. 16:7, and that’s our challenge and reminder too, to see beyond outward appearance.  

Fortunately, we have our precious Lord’s life of grace and mercy as our example and guide.  

I like to go back to the beginning, to the very genealogy of Jesus found in Matthew 1:1-16, where we see a whole host of people, and women especially, who would have experienced this partiality that James is talking about had they walked into the early church there, and/or possibly, probably still today, although we pray not.

Take for example: 

  • Tamar: A Canaanite woman who posed as a prostitute to seduce her father-in-law, Judah, in Genesis 38:13-30, or 
  • Rahab: A Gentile and a prostitute who hid the spies at Jericho and later became the mother of Boaz (Josh. 2:1), or 
  • Ruth: A Moabite woman, or 
  • Bathsheba: Uriah’s wife who committed adultery with David (2 Sam. 11).
  • All women who might have been looked down upon, shunned because of their nationality or their status in society, but instead were loved and redeemed by our gracious heavenly Father and included into the lineage of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And not only Jesus’ lineage, but consider the humble village of Nazareth, where Jesus lived for 30 years.  

At the time Jesus called Nazareth home, it was a small, off-the-beaten-path, forgotten and uncelebrated place of farmers and shepherds.  

It’s not surprising that Nathaniel said, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth,” in John 1:46.

Some commentaries say people went there to hide to avoid paying taxes.

Consider Jesus’ ministry in Galilee and Samaria, places which the leaders of Israel held in contempt.

Part of Jesus’ work was to break down these walls that divide humanity and bring people together.  

Ephesians 2:14-15 says, and this is specifically regarding the Jew and Gentile, “For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in His flesh the law with its commands and  regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace.”

May the Lord help us by His Holy Spirit to see beyond outward appearance and to remove barriers that cause separation or partiality.

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Mary also creates Christian crossword puzzles and word searches. You can download her crossword puzzle, Partiality, by clicking here, and her Partiality Word Search by clicking here. Thank you, Mary, for sharing this with us!

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