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  Discrimination. That's a word that is almost always used in a negative sense as though all discrimination is necessarily evil or wrong. We are called upon to discern or discriminate when it comes to the values, beliefs and behaviour of the world in which we live. There are times when the sin is in failing to discriminate between right and wrong, truth and falsehood etc.

Session No. 4           RELIGIOUS FAVOURITISM         James 2/1-13

As we turn to chapter 2, we discover that James is teaching the same truth that Peter discovered recorded in Acts 10/34,35 as he went into the household of Cornelius. God has no favourites . Therefore, we are not to be motivated by favouritism or partiality.

[1] THE PROBLEM  (v.1)

a. The principle is stated simply in v.1 "..... how can you claim that you have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favour some people more than others? (NLT). You create and observe a destructive distinction between people whom God treats as equal to each other.

   b. "Favouritism" a Greek word that means "to look upon the face" i.e. to pre-judge by merely outward appearances. We call it "judging a book by its cover". It's the mistake that Samuel almost made when he anointed David as King. Read 1 Samuel 16/1-7.

c. Again, James has our perspective is in mind, our "world view" - the way we perceive reality. In chapter 1 he spoke of events and how we can rejoice in seemingly tough experiences. This time he is talking about how we look at people, not events.

[2]  THE PRACTICE  (vs.2-4)

  a. In his usual practical, down-to-earth way, James gives us a specific example of discrimination in practice

*Rich Man - impressive appearance so he is given preferential treatment because of social status

*Poor Man - he is not refused admission but he is obviously treated as having less value & importance.

b. What other social categories would be relevant today?  White and Black? Christian and Muslim?   Catholic and Protestant?   Male and Female?  Can you think of other examples? How could favouritism manifest itself in each of the above scenarios?  

c. At its heart, such discrimination or favouritism is judgmental and requires me to make judgments for which I am not qualified. Such judgmentalism is, therefore, evil in both nature and impact. But why is it evil?

[3] THE PARADOX  (vs.5-7)

a. The coming of Christ and the gospel eliminated the categorizing of people. Favouritism revives those categories. Someone accurately observed that the ground around the Cross is level ground.

b. James is pleading that the perspective of God's Kingdom prevails, not that of the world. Here's the paradox; In God's Kingdom, it is the worldly poor who are kingdom rich. This is what I call the great reversal. Biblical teaching acknowledges how hard it is for the earthly rich to enter God's Kingdom. It's not impossible - just very hard. Read  Matthew 6/24;  Luke 16/10-13;  Luke 18/18-25.

 c. James' readers were insulting the poor by giving preference to the very people who least deserved it. Often (but not always), the rich were wealthy because they exploited & litigated against the poor. They often slandered the Name of Jesus - and you want to treat them preferentially?!!

d. We are to see and treat people the way God sees and treats them. Read again 1 Sam.16/17 and state the principle that is to guide our discernment activities.

e. James comes right into the 21st century and he rebukes narrow-minded, self-centred, middle-class Christianity

[4]  THE PRINCIPLE   (vs.8-13)

a. Obedience to the Royal Law precludes partiality. The royal law of equality says we are to love all equally as our own selves.

b. "But surely favouritism is only a small matter" - the law is the law and favouritism is sin (v.9) The Jews saw the Law as detached & separate units rather than a whole and it operated like a debit/credit system. i.e. points were added for obedience and forfeited for disobedience. We are to think of the Law as an the individual hull of a ship. One hole and it sinks.

c. The mentality is the much same today - weigh up good and bad for acceptance.

d. But obedience at one point doesn't atone for disobedience at another - Saul 1 Sam.15/13-23

f. A day of accountability is coming - the merciful/impartial now will find mercy/impartiality then

CONCLUSION:

1. How do we see each other? Family members?  Neighbours?  Work colleagues? Fellow Deacons (some of whom may exasperate us beyond description)?

2. How do we treat each other? With equality or with favouritism?

3. What would be different for you if you determined to apply the principles in these verses if you chose to take them seriously.

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