“I have a dream”… Possibly the most famous speech in history, packed with themes of prejudice, freedom, hope, and equality. Martin Luther King Jr. gave this speech in 1963. He was a man who lived by the Word of God, and in the words he delivered on that August day are undertones of a letter — written 1900 years earlier — that also rings out with a dream.
The book of James is that letter.
In James 2, we find a pastor shepherding his people through a number of issues. This practical passage tackles a handful of very basic yet poignant illustrations that serve to get James’s point across. In today’s reading, we deal with the issue of prejudice. James wanted to make sure that all who read this leave favoritism and discrimination out of the church.
The illustration that James uses to describe the kind of prejudice he saw is a distinction between rich and poor. There were some in the assembly that had much to put in the offering baskets while others had very little. What James teaches us here is that we are to not only not judge, but we are to give preference to those who don’t enjoy the same blessings we do. We must go out of our way to help them feel welcome. We need to do what we can to improve their situations and meet their needs. The problem is that we get caught up in judging and mocking, which is the opposite of true kingdom-mindedness. Here’s how James puts it:
For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? (James 2:2-4 ESV)
Jesus also has words for this issue. It came up when there was a widow who had very little to give. Jesus wanted everyone to know that this woman, though she was poor, was infinitely valuable in the eyes of God. How Jesus puts it:
Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4 ESV)
Here are some questions for us to wrestle with today in our comments below:
1) What are some ways Christians show prejudice?
2) How are you personally guilty of this?
3) What can we do as a church to stay on guard and avoid such harmful distinctions?
4) What else did you learn from James 2:1-13?
By: Todd Thomas — Worship & College Pastor