Intro—Did you hear the recent story about professional musician Joshua Bell performing violin in a busy subway in Washington DC, dressed in jeans and ball cap, playing a $3.5M Stradivarius? Thousands of people passed by him. Only a handful of people stopped to listen briefly and to leave money in his case, a total of $32 in 45 minutes. This guy is one of the top musicians in the world, many pay upwards of $200 for tickets to hear him perform in a concert hall. In the subway, no one gave him the time of day.
What is up with this? Why did this happen?
This brings up an issue with the church. One of the chief deterrents to church attendance is the thought that partiality is shown within the church more than in other places. Folks think they may not dress right, they do not live in the right neighborhood, they don’t drive the right kind of car, they don’t have the right color skin, they aren’t Godly enough, etc.
This particular issue is addressed in James 2:1-4. Read this passage.
Observation / Comments—
2:1 As believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, we are part of the body of Christ. The church worldwide represents the body of Christ. One thing we need to remember is that the majority of people in the church worldwide are poor. You may have heard it said that “the ground at the cross is level.”
2:2 Two people enter a church meeting, a gathering. One has the outward appearance of being rich, another has the outward appearance of being poor. Note that this verse focuses on the outward appearance. In one source, it says that the Jewish people of that day coveted recognition and praise, and competed for such honor among themselves. So far there is no issue, both are welcomed into the assembly.
2:3 The issue comes when you offer a better seat to the rich man than the poor man. You sit here, you go back over there and sit on the floor.
2:4 How they reacted revealed that they showed partiality, that they in their hearts discriminated among themselves.
What do we need to know in order to address this issue in our church, in our own lives?
1. The way we behave toward people indicates what we really believe about God, our Heavenly Father. We have got to get back to the basic teachings about the character of God to deal with this. For example, remember that God loves all of us (John 3:16). God wants to redeem all of us (2 Peter 3:9). We are fearfully and wonderfully made under the watchful eye of our Heavenly Father (Psalm 139:13-16). Our God does not show partiality (2 Chronicles 19:7). Our God looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
2. The way we behave toward people should come with our remembrance about our Lord Jesus Christ, about how he lived, about His humility. Jesus was poor, coming from Nazareth that was a despised city, and he had no home on this earth. Jesus had nothing about his physical appearance or his material possessions that would attract us to him. Jesus was despised and rejected. He was humble. Read the passage in Isaiah 53 to get a sense of what we are talking about here.
3. Be sensitive to times in your life when you will be tested in this area. Learn to be a discerner of the heart, ask God for wisdom in this area (James 1:5). For example, friends of your children may come over who have body piercings, tattoos, dressed in a different manner. Even your own child may experiment one day with a certain independent spirit.
4. Look at everyone through the eyes of Christ. If the person is a Christian, then accept him because Christ lives in him. If the person is not a Christian, receive him because Christ died for him.
5. Read the parable in Luke 14:7-14. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted