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SHOW NO PARTIALITY (2): GOD EXEMPLIFIES IT

(James 2:5-7)
Date: _________________

Read James 2:5-7 – “Show no partiality.” That’s Jas’ message. Last week we
saw God Commands it. Today – God Exemplifies It. Playing favorites is a
step away from God – and any step away from God is only illusionary gain!

Someone once asked Ronald Reagan, “How come every time you ride in on a
horse you just keep looking younger?” He answered, “Easy. I just keep
riding younger and younger horses.” Hollywood is great at illusions. Smaller
than average doorways make heroes appear taller than tall. Invisible footstools
make the guy taller than the girl. At Universal Studios you can ride a tram
through the Red Sea as it parts for you. But – it’s all illusion.

So is playing favorites. We see it as a shortcut to gain some prestige, but in the


process we misrepresent God. Thus, we’ve entered the land of Make Believe
where the only one fooled is us. Whatever advantage we think we achieve –
we don’t. Sooner or later Gal 6:7: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked,
for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” That’s the message of our text.

Jas 2:1-13 is “Show no partiality.” In vv. 2-4 it happens at church. In vv. 5-7
he continues showing the folly of favoring the rich bc they’re rich. There’s
nothing wrong with riches or wealthy friends. But favoring them because they
are rich – that’s a problem. It actually works against you. James shows 3 ways
this is true – and what is true of partiality to the rich is true of showing
partiality for any purely outward reason. Favoritism I. Aligns One Against
God; II. Aligns One Against Self; and III. Aligns One Against Christ.

I. Favoritism Aligns One Against God

Favoring the rich separates us from God. At the fork in the road, God went
one way; we went the other. 5) . . . has not God chosen those who are poor in
the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised
to those who love him?” God loves rich and poor alike. But bc the poor are
most often mistreated, He is most often found in their corner.

As far back as Gen 18:25c Abe asks, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do
what is just?” God’s not looking to enhance His reputation by aligning with
the rich and powerful. He plays it straight down the middle. Rom 2:11, “For
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God shows no partiality.” When Peter was sent to the Gentiles, he refused at
first. When he finally got there, he got the message as well as he opened his
sermon to Cornelius by saying, “Truly I understand that God shows no
partiality” (Acts 10:34). Peter initially took the wrong fork in the road, but
he detoured back to reality. Paul says in Gal 2:6c, “God shows no partiality.”
God shows no partiality – plays no favorites, and neither must we.

God always has an eye out for the poor. Psa 41:1) Blessed is the one who
considers the poor! In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him.” God
repeatedly issued this message in the OT: Lev 19:9: “When you reap the
harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither
shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest….You shall leave them for
the poor.” Concerning the poor, God says in Lev 25:37: “You shall not lend
him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit.” You say,
“Well, it sounds like God was being partial – toward the poor.” Not at all! He
was just evening things out.

So, is God against the rich? No! He has plenty of rich followers. But when it
comes to a relationship with Him – riches give no advantage. The world
exalts the rich and powerful – puts them on a pedestal. Not God. He evens the
playing field which is Jas’ point when he says, “has not God chosen those who
are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom.” God is just
as likely to choose the poor as the rich, and all who are chosen by Him and
respond in faith are heirs of a kingdom far greater than this world.

That was Paul’s point in I Cor 1:26) For consider your calling, brothers: not
many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were
powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27) But God chose what is foolish in
the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame
the strong; 28) God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things
that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29) so that no human being
might boast in the presence of God.” No one will be in heaven bragging they
are there because they were rich, powerful, influential, smart or good-looking.
God is blind to all the advantages that the world prizes. He plays no favorites.

To be truly rich is to be “rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom.” Those riches
can belong to anyone whether they have anything in this world or not. In fact,
it’s easier for those who have nothing to accept Christ because they don’t have
the weight of “things” to distract them. Jesus said it’s easier for a camel to go
thru the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom. You will
never find God in the corner of those who are flaunting their privileges in this
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world. He loves the underdog. We can’t reflect His character unless we are
also blind to worldly advantages – whether it comes in the form of money,
power, intelligence or any other measure that causes us to favor one person
over another.

Chuck Colson, Nixon’s hatchet man who was wonderfully converted in the
throes of Watergate, told how the White House intimidated people. He used to
soften up enemies by bringing them thru the corridors of power to the pinnacle
of power – the Oval office. He says, “Nixon was master at the game. He
always gave his dazzled visitor gold-plated cuff links with the presidential
seal. The person would be overwhelmed as he left, almost bowing, not more
than sixty seconds later.… Invariably, the lions of the waiting room became
the lambs of the Oval Office. No one ever showed outward hostility. Most,
except the labor leaders, forgot their best-rehearsed lines.” Now – get this!
“Ironically, none were more compliant than the religious leaders. Of all
people, they should have been the most aware of the sinful nature of man
and the least overwhelmed by pomp and protocol. But theological knowledge
sometimes wilts under the influence of human power.” But not if we are
following God’s example. He is never swayed by ethnic, economic, social or
intellectual differences. The corridors of worldly power mean nothing to
Him. We misrepresent Him when they sway us.

Amy Carmichael who later became a missionary to India once told of walking
home from church one Sunday when she was 18 and living in Ireland. She and
her siblings met a poor old woman burdened with a heavy bundle. They took
her load, and began helping her homeward. But they were met with icy stares
of fellow church members – “proper Presbyterians”. She found herself
increasingly embarrassed by her company until into her mind flashed Paul’s
words from I Cor 3:13: “each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day
will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what
sort of work each one has done.” Will it be gold, silver and precious stones –
or wood, hay and stubble? It was a lifechanging moment for her. She wrote
later: “We went on. I said nothing to anyone, but I knew that something had
happened that had changed life's values. Nothing could ever matter again
but the things that were eternal." And so it must be for us, Beloved. “Show
no partiality.” That’s the wood, hay and stubble that will burn on that day bc it
violates rather than reflects our Lord’s character.

II. Favoritism Aligns One Against Self

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Jas now moves from a theological argument to a logical argument. “Are not
the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court?” Jas
doesn’t mean rich people are always oppressive. But in his time, the rich, as a
class, were quick to bully the poor. It was virtually impossible to advance
from economic poverty to a comfortable middle or upper class. The poor were
hard-pressed to eke out a living. Meanwhile the rich were out to make sure
they didn’t slip down, so they were quick to oppress the poor.

One way they did that was by lending money to the underprivileged. But in
those days there was a custom of instant arrest. If a creditor met a debtor on
the street, he could literally drag him into the law courts where he could
expect a favorable ruling. The rich had no sympathy; all they wanted was
every last penny. So, you might favor a rich man now, but he was not likely to
reciprocate if you found yourself in debt to him.

That doesn’t mean you should treat someone badly because they are rich.
That’s just backward prejudice. The issue is not to favor someone because of
their money. There were no usury laws or bankruptcy courts back then to
protect people who came on hard times, so instant arrest. Thus, Calvin
paraphrased: “Why honor your executioners?” You just encourage the idea
they are more important leading to your own oppression. You are working
against your own interests, let alone God’s. Ever befriend a co-worker only to
have them stab you in the back later on their way up the ladder?

Inevitably when we favor someone because of their money, prestige, intellect


or attractiveness, we compromise our own values. In showing partiality to
those who are rich, we’re bowing to their idol – money. When we ingratiate
ourselves to someone who holds power, like a boss, it’s easy to compromise
principles of honesty and integrity – to steal someone else’s idea to make
ourselves look good. Partiality and compromise go hand in hand!

That has certainly been true in theological circles where in a desire to gain
favor with the intellectual elite, who despise the Bible and deny the idea of
supernatural revelation, many have compromised the truth of Scripture –
surrendering the truth of the inerrancy of Scripture – turning it into a book of
good advice rather than a message of good news.

Pastors are tempted to ease up on certain sins for fear of offending those who
have money or prestige. Playing favorites by adapting the message. As Adrian
Rogers says, “The problem with preachers is that no one wants to kill them
anymore.” In other words, we’ve watered things down – either to gain an
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audience, or to avoid offending the one they’ve got. Either way, playing
favorites has led to compromise. D. Martyn Lloyd Jones, an MD before
becoming a pastor said, “I never let the patient write the prescription.”
Neither should the audience dictate the message, right? The message is God’s
not mine; not yours. You don’t find Peter or Paul coming into town and
conducting a survey to see what would play well! They came with message.

And it often cost them. At Ephesus, Paul preached the true God as opposed to
Artemis, the local deity. It didn’t go down well! Acts 19:23: “About that time
there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. 24) For a man named
Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little
business to the craftsmen.” Sales of the little Artemis idols had fallen to an all-
time low and Paul was in trouble. So why didn’t he say to the church: “Folks,
we’re losing the business audience. We better ease up on Artemis. Let’s just
preach Christ and let it go at that.” He’d have avoided a lot of trouble by
showing a little partiality. But he’d have lost his character, and his message.

Perhaps you’ve lost your message to keep friends at the club, to gain that
promotion, to stay with the in-crowd at school. We’re all tempted. But isn’t it
possible that in gaining the favor of men, we’ve lost the favor of God? In the
end, showing partiality works against oneself. So we need to take the long
view and stay the course. No compromise to gain someone’s good will.

III. Favoritism Aligns One Against Christ

V. 6b: “Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you
into court? 7) Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by
which you were called?” The rich in Jewish circles during Jas’ time were the
Saducees and other religious leaders who profaned the name of Christ. They
had killed Him, after all, and had good reason to protect their interests against
the gospel message afterwards.

But Jas audience was primarily dispersed Jews. Here the rich might have been
masters who found that slaves or employees who had become Xns exhibited a
newfound independence. They no longer cringed at the master’s power; they
had a new master. They had a new honesty which was good in some ways, but
also meant they would no longer participate in shady business dealings or
petty dishonest. They wanted time for worship on Sunday. In any case, the
message of the gospel was laughable to the world. Imagine worshiping a so-
called Messiah who had been executed on a Roman cross and claiming He
could forgive sins. They whole thing was a blasphemous joke.
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Now Jas is not saying that all rich people blaspheme Jesus’ name. This is not a
diatribe against the rich. He’s using the rich of an example of anyone we
might show partiality toward to curry favor. His point is, those are likely to be
the very ones who reject Christ. The rich, powerful, prestigious, and honored
in worldly terms are not usually those who willingly humble themselves to the
Lordship of Christ. Chances are in seeking to curry their favor, we’ll be
aligning with rejecters! While we should love and live inclusive lives toward
such people – we must not favor them over others. We should want to love
them to Christ, but must guard against allowing them to draw us away from
Christ.

Ever wish you could have a prayer back. I do. We used to have a big user
conference for several hundred users of our AFIS equipment from all over the
world. Eventually I was in charge of the whole thing, but one year before that
my boss asked if I would pray before a dinner. I did – but bc there were people
from all over the world, including Muslims, Hindus and others I prayed
without mentioning the name of Jesus. I didn’t want to offend. I played
favorites to gain favor with men rather than God. I’d like that prayer back. It
aligned me against Christ. That’s how easily it can happen. The only good
thing about that was, it made sure I never did that again.

Conc – The point of Jas’ text is – when we play favorites we’re removed
ourselves a step from God and thus from reality. God’s doesn’t play favorites.
And nowhere is God’s impartiality more clearly seen than at the cross. Rev
5:9-10: “And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed
people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10) and
you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on
the earth.” God invites everyone; unfortunately, not all come. But many do.

Brennan Manning writes: “Jesus comes for sinners, for those as outcast as
tax collectors and for those caught up in squalid choices and failed dreams.
He comes for corporate executives, street people, superstars, farmers,
hookers, addicts, IRS agents, AIDS victims and even used-car salesmen.” He
cares nothing for appearances, and if we are His, we must not either. Let’s
pray.