What we’re going to do to get us rolling here this morning is we’re going to play a game called what’s your Favorite? All right, don’t look at my notes.
All right, here we go. I saw you sneaking there, Tom. All right, so this one’s called what’s your Favorite? You may have seen this before. Also this or that or which one is better?
So what I’m going to do is I’m going to give them two different things, and I’m going to say one, two, three. And on the count, after the third one, two, three, then they’re both going to say at the same time which one they personally think is their favorite. Okay? So you just wait till my one, two, three. You guys understand?
Audience understand? All right. You guys just get to have fun with this? Well, you can laugh at them if you want, but all in good fun laughing with them. All right, so here’s the game.
What’s your favorite? So we’ll start with this first one. Wait till I say one, two, three. Mashed potatoes or baked potatoes? One, two, three, mashed potatoes.
Baked potato. We got one mashed. We got baked. Okay, here we go. All right, we’re already got a little different favorites here.
Who here would go with mashed? Where are my baked potato people? All right, next one. Which one is your favorite? Mac or PC?
Ready? Mac or PC? One, two, three. PC. All right.
These guys, I think they are friends.
We’re getting there. That’s why you were chosen.
Yeah, I’m going there. Ice cream. Would you rather have your ice cream in a cone or in a dish? Coney. Hey.
One, two, three, cone. Wow. Three for three. All right, in disagreement, who here likes it in a dish? We have dish people here?
I kind of go back and forth. I can put more stuff on it. Switch it up. I like the crispy cone, though. That’s good, too.
Yeah, it’s hard to eat the dish. All right, next one. Hard taco or soft taco? Hard taco or soft taco? One, two, three.
Hard taco. Oh, they’re the same. All right. They both like hard tacos, and I like hard tacos better. Something about the crunch.
All right. Okay, here we go with coffee. Black coffee or coffee with creamer? So either you’re going to say black or creamer for this one. For your coffee.
Ready? One, two, three. Creamer. No coffee. I don’t like coffee.
Do we have any black coffee in here? Look at that. It’s still alive and strong. Black coffee. There you go.
You went with a creamer. A little bit of milk. He won’t do black coffee with his creamer. Yeah. All right, next one.
Sports car or pickup truck? Sports car or pickup truck? Ready? One, two, three. Sports car.
Her husband has a sports car. No, he has sports car. Okay, two sports cars. All right. Here we go.
This is really important, and I think your integrity is on the line here on this one. In your bathroom, on the roll. All right. Does the toilet paper go is it over or does it go under? Is the toilet paper go over or under?
And if you don’t know what I’m talking about out there, we need to talk afterwards. I need to help you. All right? So it’s over or under? Ready?
One, two, three. Over. Yes. Thank you, Lord. Over.
The toilet paper goes over.
Leave my house for a week. I come back and it’s put on all wrong. And I’m like, what has happened here? What’s going on? What is going on here?
All right, this one is super important.
And wait till I say one, two, three, because it’s going to get some emotions going for both of you. Pepsi or Coke? Pepsi or Coke? Ready? One, two, three.
Coca Cola. All day, every day. I chose them. I don’t know if you know. Mignon works for Pestie and Tom works for CocaCola, the worldwide leader in drinks.
Yes. There you go. A distant number one. Wow. Same church, too.
Just curious. Who here is a Coke person who hears a Pepsi person? All right. Who’s a Mt. Dew person. All right.
She’s going through the mountain dew. And a gatorade person. And a Tropicana person. I drink mellow yellow. Thank you.
That’s Coca Cola. That’s a coke product. All right, last question, last one. Dog or cat? Dog or cat?
Ready? One, two, three. Dog. There you go. Thank you.
Give him a round of applause.
Well done. And I think they even like each other. They’re still friends.
And I want to emphasize this. The main point of this exercise is why have a cat when you could have a dog? Just come on now. I’m just kidding. Cat people are people, too.
They’re just from a different planet where people sneeze all the time and scratch their eyes. But we love you. Anyway, the key point is we all have preferences. We all have our favorites. Even my wife Amy, who claims to have no favorites, has at least one favorite, and that’s me.
I always correct her. I say, you do have a favorite. That’s me of all of her suitors back in the university days.
Sounds so renaissance and romantic. Right? But of all those suitors, I was her favorite. And that’s why we’ve been married for almost 20 years. So I would say certainly it is biblically appropriate that your spouse is your number one relationship, all right?
And absolutely, just as Jesus did, all of us are going to have those two or three friends for different seasons of our lives that we’re closer to than everyone else. That’s how God set up relationships. But it is one thing to have two or three friends that you can call your best friends or to favor your spouse above all other relationships. But here’s what we must wrestle with, what’s God’s expectation for our relationships with the other 99.9% of humanity? Let’s read James, chapter two and look for the answer here.
James chapter two, verse one. I’m reading from the NIV.
James, two, verse one. My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man and filthy clothes also comes in. Filthy old clothes comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, well, here’s a good seat for you. But you say to the poor man, you stand there or sit on the floor by my feet, have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor, those who are poor in the eyes of this world, to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 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? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the Holy Name or the noble name of him to whom you belong? If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as law breakers.
I guess James answered that question. He makes no bones about it. It’s a command. If you claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ, you must not show favoritism. All right, so let’s look at verse one.
I think it’s important that we define favoritism, and it’s important we define it because we want to know exactly what it means if we’re not supposed to do it. All right, so you see up there the Greek word for favoritism in verse one prosapoliya. Did you get that? And that literally means to receive someone according to their face. That’s what that means, to receive someone according to their face.
We’re not talking about ice cream here or coffee creamer or pets. We’re talking about real people. And favoritism is to show partiality or prejudice toward an individual or a group of people. Favoritism is making a judgment based on external appearances or reputation. And we see the same word in Acts 10:34 when Peter says of the Gentiles, it’s true, God does not show favoritism. And then we see the same word from Paul in Romans 2:11 and Galatians 2:6, when he writes, God shows no favoritism. The king of the universe does not show favoritism, and he expects the same of his subjects. And then in verses two through four, next James gives us this hypothetical situation of what could be happening in the church. And we don’t know if this really happened or not, but I believe something similar had happened or happened on numerous occasions, or James would not be writing this, all right?
So he gives us this hypothetical. And verse two, he says, suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes. And this describes a person that when you look at his or her hands, literally, this means you see gold fingers. Suppose someone comes in with gold fingers, all right? In those days, gold rings meant status. It meant wealth. This person also walks in with shiny clothes. No doubt the most expensive name brands. I remember back in 9th grade, this was very important to me, all right? It was very important that I showed up the first day of school in 9th grade, and I’m dating myself here severe dollars, which is about two or three times the price of Levi’s, right?
So I would wear those, and I had to pay $30 of it just to have those jeans. I had to split it with my parents. In today’s economy, that was back in the 1900s. So today’s economy, that’s like $120. It’s $120 jeans.
But imagine this person walks in. This could be the CEO of your company. This could be a state senator or a famous politician. It could be a handsome movie star, a famous musician or singer, a professional athlete. And you got to think about it. If this person walked in here, if you met this person at some special event, how would you respond? What would you be feeling inside if you saw them? And what would that be like for you? And then after this, in verse two, a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. And the word for poor here is the most severe form of poverty.
This person has no resources. His or her clothes are filthy. They smell. And that’s probably because the person only owns one set of clothing, right? That’s it.
So today, suppose someone new walks in here who could seem completely out of place. Maybe they’re incredibly socially awkward, and it’s difficult to talk, and it’s kind of cringy. Maybe they have clothes that are out of style, or they’re different than you. Or maybe even this person walks in with immodest clothing. I mean, that’s all they have.
And they think, okay, this is what I’m supposed to wear. This is what I have. If this person walked in here, if you met this person outside the grocery store, how would you respond?
How would your response to that person compare to how you treated the first person?
It’s something to think about. In verse three, if you show special attention to the man wearing the fine clothes and say, hey, here’s a good seat. But then you go to the other person, the poor person that’s very different than you, and you say, well, you can stand there or sit on the floor by my feet. James says, have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? There it is.
If you and I favor someone by external appearances, James tells us two things. Number one, yes, you have discriminated.
And as Christians, I know I can speak for myself, and I think I can speak for many of you here today. As Christians, we’re not immune to discrimination, all right? It’s not like, okay, we’ve been baptized into Christ. We’ve become Christians. And then all of that is no longer a factor of who we are.
We’re so influenced by how we’re raised in our culture and where we live. We’re not immune to this. It’s our fallen world we’re a part of, and it’s our fallen human tendency, listen to this, it’s our tendency to favor those who we could profit from the most.
Right? If someone’s useful to us. So naturally we can favorably discriminate. Right? Yeah. And I struggle with this.
All right? This is revealing of my heart. If I cannot immediately identify a person or a group of people as valuable to me, then I’m tempted to discriminate.
So what does that tell us? The root of favoritism is not love. It’s the opposite. The root of favoritism is self-interest and selfishness and sometimes even just fear. Okay?
We fear what someone can do to us or the influence they have, the power they have. And so we will treat them differently, and we will show favor to them because it works for us. You see what I’m saying?
Does that makes us think? How do you choose your friendships? How do you choose who you associate with? Think about how you choose your family group in this church. When you choose your family group in this church, is it geography and the mission of seeking and saving the lost, or is there some favoritism there? I think too often we default to choosing people who look like us, sound like us, think like us.
We want our kids around those kinds of people, and we got to watch out. We got to watch out. And when this happens, James lets us know. Number two, you have become a judge with evil thoughts. And James does not hold back.
He calls this way of judging others flat out wicked. The word is evil. Wicked.
As missionaries in Scotland, for myself, I needed this wickedness purged from me, and it’s an ongoing process. I have not arrived. I’m growing have not arrived. And Amy and I, we both had to grow in our judgments of people very different from us when we went overseas, there were obvious differences in culture, but also in other ways as well. With different people we interacted with.
There were differences in education levels, and I can be a snob with that. I can be judgmental with that. There’s differences in socioeconomic backgrounds, political worldviews, physical capabilities, life stages, overall interests. It was really, really painful. But invaluable lessons for us to learn about our own judgments. In verses five through seven, James points out the crazy irony of all of this, right? Because if you look historically at church history, all right, as Christianity spread in the first and second centuries, most of the new converts were poor, less educated, lower class. Often many of them were slaves. That’s why we have quite a few slave and master scriptures in the New Testament. And most likely, many of the converts were women, more women than men. In that society. That was a big deal.
So with a few exceptions, the poor and the lower class made up a majority of the early church. For me, that was just mind blown. And brothers and sisters, that’s our heritage. So James tells the audience here, hey, get off your high horse.
Remember who you are. Remember where you would be without Jesus. Don’t judge others and don’t judge yourselves by the standards of this world.
In fact, it is those we typically look down on who are actually the ones that God has chosen to be rich and inherit the kingdom of heaven. And James states, hey, watch out, you’ve dishonored the poor. In other words, you are humiliating people with your favoritism.
And Jesus says the opposite, right? We talk so much about the parallels of James letter and the teachings of Jesus. Jesus says the opposite. In Luke 620, he says, blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
I think it’s not a stretch to say that for every culture, for all times, even today, it is those that are most humbled by life who are consistently the most receptive to the good news of Jesus.
I think that’s why some of you are still here today. You keep getting humbled by life. It hurts, but it’s always a bad thing. It keeps you faithful in needing Jesus. If Jesus is the crutch, I need it.
Bring it here. I’ll take him. Again, if we’re humbled by life, we will continue to hopefully be receptive to the Gospel.
So you see the irony that James is pointing out here for the Church. And this is why he states the truth in verse five. 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 to those who love Him?
And this does not guarantee that life will be fair. I think you know that. But one day, all those wrongs will be made right for those who truly love and obey God. And James, who wrote this, experienced that firsthand. James was stoned to death for his preaching.
And when that happened, there was a public outcry in Jerusalem. It was tremendous. He meant so much to the people, especially the lower class, that’s because he was called James the just because he was a champion for the poor. That was his church. Those were his people.
They were in this together. In verses six and seven, James gives us yet another reality check. Roman courts always favored the upper and middle class. That’s how it was set up. When you had power and prestige, you could initiate lawsuits against social inferiors in that culture, and you would always win.
And the reverse wasn’t true. If you were lower class, not of noble birth, you had no chance to sue the upper class. All right? Punishments were stricter for those of common birth in the lower class, not much has changed today. Money talks. Money talks in this lifetime.
In a sense, this is encouraging to me, and it increases my faith in God’s word, because I just love God’s law in the Old Testament. I know you may read it at times, especially those first five books, and it can get tedious with all those laws, but you have to sit for a second and think, wow, just marvel. I marveled at the all pervading sense of justice that God set up for Israel in those first five books of the Old Testament. I don’t think we take it for granted, but during that time, those laws for Israel, they were completely countercultural and revolutionary.
How much God loved all people and wanted to fight for everyone, and that he was not a God of favoritism. God is just. His laws are just. God does not show favoritism. And this gives me great confidence to trust and obey God.
Now, here’s what I believe James would say to us today in verses six and seven.
Why are you so enamored with beautiful, famous, and powerful people?
I’m not saying disrespect them. Why are you so caught up in every word they say everything, they do whatever they believe. Why? Why are we obsessed with them? Why do they influence us so much?
Why are you so vocal in favor of certain politicians or powerful factions in their causes? Why?
These people are not your brothers and sisters in Christ. They’re not here with us. In fact, these people you favor are often the very ones who exploit you, tax you, drag God’s name through the mud with their hypocritical lives.
If and when you and I side with them and favor them, we align the church with blasphemers.
So pray for those with power and fame and influence, but do not favor them, especially when it comes to your brothers and sisters in Christ.
In verses eight and nine, James concludes this section by giving us two choices here. Let’s read again, verse eight. If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as law breakers. So the Greek word here for royal is actually kingdom. That’s the Greek word. And for me, that gets my attention. If I substitute and just put the word, okay, this is a kingdom law. It gets my attention. James tells us there’s a kingdom law here that we must obey, and that kingdom law is this love your neighbor as yourself.
And we’re told to keep it. And keep here does not mean I’ve checked the box of obedience. It’s so much more than that. I know I’m referencing a lot of Greek I’m going Greek geek here on you. But I think it’s important to understand that the verb here for keep, and you’ll see it in some translations, is fulfill.
All right? It’s the same word that’s used in Matthew 5:48 when Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. And that word perfect is the meaning of it is fulfillment or coming of age, attaining maturity. Right? And so what James is calling us to do, the Holy Spirit is calling us to do here, is to come of age in obeying the kingdom law of loving your neighbor as yourself.
It’s a growth into. It’s a maturity into, because if we examine ourselves, we all have a lot of growth to do in this area. We have a long way to go. So in other words, we must love humanity as we love ourselves, especially the people who can offer us absolutely nothing in return. That’s the key.
This is the same preaching again, Sermon on the Mountain is like, hey, it’s great. You love people that love you. Even the pagans do that. How about you love someone that can’t give you anything back or even worse, would harm you? That’s the love of God.
That’s the kingdom law of love we’re talking about here. It’s radical. That’s the expectation for us. And if we think about it for a minute, this is exactly how God loves you and me. I can’t do anything to earn God’s love.
There’s nothing I could give God. Like, what’s God getting out of this with me? You know what I’m saying? But God does not show favoritism. That’s how he loves. And that’s the expectation for us.
That’s the perfect love of the upside down kingdom. Our king does not show favoritism. Thank God for that. Thank you, God, for your mercy. But he also expects his subjects to follow his lead and to mature into becoming more and more like him and his Son.
It’s one thing to love like the world loves. It’s quite another to have kingdom love. And that’s what we’re talking about here and verse nine gives us the alternative. When you show favoritism, you sin. It’s a serious violation of the kingdom.
When you show favoritism, you’re breaking a kingdom law.
And the kingdom law supersedes any law of man, right? So the kingdom law demands we love our neighbor, no matter who that person is or what that person or what that group of people may be doing to us. This is a hard teaching, but this is the expectation of anyone who follows Jesus.
So just to give us something to think about this week Living Water Challenges. We are a very generous church, and I believe we are a very inclusive church. It’s one of the reasons I love this church. We haven’t arrived, but I’m pretty proud of us and I love to be here. We’re diverse in age, socioeconomics education, culture, color. I love it. But we haven’t arrived. There’s more growing to do. I think the last few years have shown us that. I believe this is an area where we must continue to grow, to mature, to fulfill the kingdom law of love.
We have to continue to strive to become more like God in our love and less like the world. So two things are happening here for us in today’s text. Number one, on a very practical level, of course, you expect that from James. James calls us out. He says, hey, treat people better.
It starts in the church and then you work your way out. Just treat people better. All kinds of people just do it. And one thing I didn’t mention, I think it’s important to help us to do this. One motivation is man, think about what it feels like to be on the receiving end of negative favoritism, to be discriminated against in any way, shape or form.
Feel that and think about that in a social setting when that happens to you or at your workplace or on a sports team, it hurts, especially if it’s your kids. Treat people better. Treat people the way you would want to be treated.
And then on a deeper level, number two, we have the opportunity here to be transformed from the inside out into the character of Jesus. And that’s really what this is all about til Jesus comes back. From one degree of glory to the next to become more like Jesus.
We are being matured, we’re being sanctified, we’re being perfected into Jesus. We’re learning from Jesus, learning to love as Jesus loved. I tell you what, just imagine the profound impact this will have in the church if we did this, if we took it to the next step each one of us. Examine ourselves and said, hey, this is an opportunity to be refreshed and to repent, to go beyond what I felt when I was baptized, but really take it to the next level. Deep, deep in my heart, this can have a profound impact in our church, in your community, as we denounce favoritism together, not just in words, but in deed, as James would say, and we come of age in a deeper obedience of love your neighbor, as yourself.
Just imagine how seeing this kingdom law and action will resonate in today’s culture. I tell you what this I truly believe this piece of the gospel resonates with today’s culture.
Favoritism is a big deal. Fairness is a big deal. I’m not saying we need to lose our conviction. We hold onto our conviction and love like no one’s ever seen before. It will make a difference.
People will see Jesus, they’ll see the gospel. We can grab onto this. Orlando needs to see true selfless love for the marginalized. They need to see true selfless love that we can give others. Ones that they would see, obviously, that we would disagree with or be very different from.
And yet they see that love. We can show it to them. Let’s do that.
Just hours before his arrest, Jesus told us something that will echo for all eternity.
He told his guys, by this, by your love for one another, by your love for your fellow human beings, all the world will know that you’re my disciples. So with this in mind, let’s celebrate Jesus. At this time, I’m.