James 2: 1-5

As I read James 2:1-5, I was reminded when I taught Bible study at City Hall in East St. Louis, IL. in the 90s. Many people received Jesus as Savior. I did not want to pastor, so I partnered with several churches of different denominations to receive on Sunday morning those who were saved on Saturday night. 

After some months I called the newly saved to see how they were doing with their new church families. None of them were in church. They had gone to the recommended churches but were not received. 

Some were sat in the back of the church. Some received unwelcome stares. Some were told they did not belong.  

You see, some did not have the required “church clothes.” Some did not know proper church etiquette for that particular denomination. At Saturday night Bible study, they could say, “Amen,” when they agreed with what was preached; and they could praise God as the Spirit moved them. But that behavior was considered noise at their new church home. They were judged by their outward appearance and their response to the preached Word.

Favoritism (whether based on “race, class, education, gender, or culture,” Tony Evans), was just alive in the 90s as it was in the first century church. 

Read slowly the favoritism of First Church described by James, the brother of Jesus in James 2:1-4:

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

James says that those who show favoritism in the house of the Lord “become judges with evil thoughts.” My! My! My! These are strong words. At the time, I thought these new saints were rejected because the pastors had not trained their ushers and congregations how to receive strangers who looked different or praised the Lord differently. I contributed their behavior to ignorance, but not being “evil.” After considering James’ next statement, I understand why he called them “judges with evil thoughts.”

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? (James 2:5)

It is evil to reject one who (1) God has chosen to be rich in faith, (2) who is heir of the kingdom of God, and (3) who loves God. In the household of faith, we do not have the right to evaluate a person’s value based on something as outward appearance. That is a standard the unbeliever uses. 

Consider the following scriptures:

    • “Stop judging by outward appearances, and start judging justly”(John 7:24).
    • “Why, then, do you judge your brother? Or why do you belittle your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat” (Romans 14:10).
    • So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:28).
    • But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Are you judging people bases on outward appearance? Are you being judged by outward appearance? Is your church welcoming to strangers/visitors? Do you make it a point of welcoming strangers at your church? #Join the conversation.