Oct 28 2018 Wisdom from James and Jesus - Do Not Show Favoritism; Pray for Your Enemies
28th October 2018
Lord, thank You for this chance to praise You – You are worthy of all of our praise. Thank You that You love us and You are so happy with us, we cannot imagine. We look at ourselves and feel we are falling short, but You are not that way – Because of what Your Son did on the cross, You are pleased – not because we are good enough, but because of what Jesus did for us.I pray that You would give me grace to speak - Only You can speak to people’s hearts – only Your words matter. In Your name we pray. Amen.
As we head toward Advent, we will be focusing on the Book of James – James, the brother of Jesus, and how his words connect with Jesus’ words, for the next five weeks.
James 2:1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose someone comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor person in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the one wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the one who is poor, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Here favoritism literally means, ‘to receive someone according to their face’ – which I think is a cool way of saying. It is judging based on external appearances – favoring based on looks, or wealth, or position. In the time of the New Testament - This was a big issue in their world. It is a big issue in our world. James had to address one of their primary issues: Wealth. Most were poor – the overwhelming majority – and therefore, the church was made up of poor people. For the church, if a wealthy person came in, there was a great temptation to show favoritism. If you were of a lower position – it was your RESPONSIBILITY to show favoritism. It doesn’t work that way today, although some feel like they should be honored because of their wealth.
So when you tell the wealthy person to sit in this privileged place – it shows everyone they are a person of privilege. And they get attention. Think of star power – or name dropping today. That is a little bit of what is taking place.
But when you tell the poor person to sit at your feet, you are letting that person know that you know what their ‘true status’ is. And the problem – we are shaming and embarrassing the poor person.
We have subtle ways of doing that. We would never say – sit at my feet. I hope not – but we have subtle ways of letting people know their position – and God is SO against that. Is there any status in God’s world? No. It says - Have you not discriminated or been prejudiced? We are all discriminatory in some ways. If there are those we like better, there must be those we like worse.
James indicates that it is out of evil motives or evil thoughts. James tells it like it is – he pulls no punches. He is right up there, you know exactly what he thinks. If you are showing favoritism, you have EVIL motives. I would probably say – that’s not a good thing to do – I’m a bit of a soft sell.
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?
We live in a different world. And that is okay. In our world, the rich judge the poor, and the poor judge the rich – it is not so cut and dried. A lot of our favoritism and partiality comes from a person’s popularity. Or maybe it is a person’s education or career – maybe money also. But a person’s position in a church and standing in a church can cause us to show favoritism or discriminate on the other side. It is so important to be honest with this stuff – ask yourself – what kind of person am I partial toward or do I discriminate against? We are human! Humans have been doing this from the beginning and we don’t escape our humanity.
8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right.
There you go – you want to avoid all of this? Treat people the way you would want to be treated. If you were in that situation –
Who is your neighbor, they ask Jesus – and it is – Anyone who needs you is your neighbor…
9 But if you show favoritism, you sin (WOW! And here is what is even worse. Sin, you may have heard – means to miss the mark – but not here, it is saying IMMORALITY. If you show favoritism, you are immoral. For many we put immorality at the top of the sin chart! If you show favoritism, you are at the top of the sin chart! And I’m not saying we should have a sin chart! ) and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers…
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.
Like in Galatians, where Paul says to look to yourselves…
I would love to gloss over this. Yes, we have been forgiven because Jesus died for us. But sometimes, maybe we need to just let verses like this sit!
The practical application? Learn to be a merciful person. That is what He is saying.
Okay – now, what Jesus has to say about this – simple, but not easy.
Matthew 5:43 43 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Jesus makes it fairly simple. And we have to ask – who are our enemies? Those we naturally discriminate against. Think about it – we all have them. And then He tells us to love them, pray for them – and not here, but earlier, He says to bless them – speak well of them!
I am going to give an example. In Men’s group, we were talking about how our country is so polarized and how difficult it is as a Christian to deal with all of this. How do we deal with this division – even in the church? And I would like to give an example of what Jesus is saying here. Here are two different examples – and even though it is political, it has nothing to do with politics. I am not endorsing and candidates, parties, or political topics.
When I say the first example, some of you may be tempted to say an AMEN! And if you do – when I say the second example, you should be just as loud with your amen, or you have to buy pizza for the whole church! There is no particular order here. We may need to take this out of the video!
Some folks in our culture view President Trump as an enemy. For those people, Jesus would tell them – Love him, pray for him, bless him, and speak well of him.
Some folks in our culture view Colin Kaepernick as an enemy, and Jesus would tell them – Love him, pray for him, bless him, and speak well of him.
So that make the point. But in reality, that does not play a big role in our lives. These are like, ‘mental enemies’ – they don’t affect our everyday life. But rather, think of the neighbor who lets his dog do his business in your yard and you step in it while mowing. OR the neighbor who doesn’t deal with their yellow flowers and they seed and blow in your yard. And God wants us to love, pray for, bless, and speak well of them as well.
All of us have that one person at work. You know the one. The one you are thinking of right now! You are to love them, pray for them, bless them, and speak well of them.
Hopefully you don’t have that one person in church, but if you do, you know what to do!
How do we love them? Especially the neighbor, or the person at work. When we talk about love – the Good Samaritan story is ACTION oriented. He saw what the person needed and did all that he could to meet the need of the person. It is ACTION and service oriented. How do we pray for people? Let me say – here is how we DON’T pray – we don’t pray, destroy him and drop rocks on his house! But we do pray for his good and well-being. It may mean praying for his salvation. It may mean praying that she would repent of something – a sin, not an irritation. People don’t repent of irritations – but the key is that it I is for the good and well-being of the other person.
Praying for someone you don’t like – can be the best thing for both of you.
Blessing – speaking well and giving a blessing with your words. James goes on and talks about speech – with our mouth we curse people and bless God – and our tongue can be a match that sets the world on fire. We can do so much damage or so much good – and it is our choice! Do you want to bless or do you want to curse? God will take care of the cursing in the end – we don’t have to worry about that.
God blesses us so that all the ends of the earth may know Him. Bless others. Are others blessed by you? Would others say, I am blessed by this neighbor!