The parents of one of my old high school friends used to counsel us, “There are 3 types of people you will meet in life: 1) People who like you, 2) People who don’t like you, and 3) People who don’t care. Focus on the first group and don’t waste your time on the other two.” That was sound advice and it actually seems kind of obvious when I think about it today. Why would we worry about what people who don’t like us think? Why would we want to be around people who don’t care about us? But as we see in today’s passage in James, our fallen sinful nature often craves the popularity of being part of the “in crowd,” even if that crowd is not very nice to us or others. And because money buys stuff that others want as well as power and status, the “in crowd” can often be the rich.
James asks us to consider whether or not we give special favor and attention to people who are rich while at the same time ignoring and looking down upon those who are poor. If we do, then we are guilty of a very great and foolish sin in God’s sight. It is a great sin because God does not show such favoritism to people. God judges people by their character and their faith, not their material possessions. If anything, being rich is more often an obstacle to a person’s salvation because the rich tend to be self-reliant and unable to see their need for God. It was the poor who flocked to see Jesus in His day and enter His kingdom much more so than the rich, and this has continued to be the case for 2,000 years of church history. Favoring the rich is also a foolish sin because the rich are the ones more likely than the poor to mistreat and ignore us and our Savior. We are wasting our attention and affections on those people who don’t like us and our faith or who don’t care about us one way or the other. May we repent of our evil desires to be accepted by the “in crowd” and instead choose the better fellowship of the humble who walk with Jesus.
The Text (James 2:1-7)
2 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?
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?
Questions to Think About
- Do you ever struggle with wanting to be part of the “in crowd”? Why or why not?
- Do you ever find yourself admiring students who seem to have more money and stuff than you? Why or why not?
- Do you think the amount of money and stuff you own and the lifestyle you live have made it easier or more difficult to follow Christ? Explain.