This post by christinecoltman was originally published at GRACE PLACE
Imagine for a moment that you’ve offered to greet people on the door at church one lady’s evening.
A new face approaches – a woman whose outfit is stunning, her makeup is flawless and she walks with grace and a steady confidence. You’re captivated by her, if not a little intimidated. You welcome her joyfully, introduce her to a few friends and suggest she sits beside you.
A couple minutes later, another woman approaches the door. She’s wearing an old, stained jacket that’s a couple sizes too big and her hair is wet with grease. As she gets closer, you notice a poignant aroma that she carries before and behind her – it causes you to keep physical distance and you make the rational decision to direct her to a chair at the back, where you hope she won’t be a distraction to any of the women who’ve come this evening.
As the study begins, you take your seat and start singing as you worship God.
But unknown to you, God is not pleased with your “worship.”
He’s seen your thoughts. And while you don’t give the distinctions you’ve made in your mind between the two women a second thought, God has one word for your thinking: evil.
Is favouritism evil?
Read James 2.1-13. James paints this scenario for us and it’s a little shocking what he says about making distinctions based on external factors. Yet, most of us do it regularly and mostly subconsciously. And then we rationalise it!
- Individually, consider: when was the last time you sized up another person?
- With a trusted friend, consider: when was the last time you played favourites?
- With the help of the Holy Spirit, prayerfully consider: when was the last time you subconsciously weighed up ‘What’s in it for me?’
Partiality itself is disgusting. But, is it the core issue – or is it a behaviour or a symptom of something so much more evil?
Let’s read James 2.14-26
Chicken or egg?
The whole of James must be read together to understand the unity of the message. But this is particularly important to emphasise as we encounter the unhelpful section breaks of our modern Bibles. If you read the first and the second part of James as separates, it can feel like James contradicts himself – but read them together and he’s giving us a picture to help us understand how faith and works relate to each other. Consider these questions:
- How do faith and works relate to each other, in the life of a believer?
- Can a believer have good works and no faith?
- Can a believer have faith and no good works?
Should I un-friend my rich friends?
In James 2:19 we’re reminded that knowledge isn’t the sole basis of faith (even demons believe in God) nor are good works or behaviours the basis of faith (the Jewish religious leaders were premier representatives of a behaviour-based form of faith). What’s missing?
Charles Spurgeon said, “New birth would be a thing to be ridiculed, if it did not really produce a hatred of sin and a love of holiness.” Read these three verses:
James 2:20 – Faith apart from works is useless
James 2.24 – A person is justified by works, and not by faith alone
John 15:5-8 – True believers abide in the True Vine and, of no effort of our own, we bear much fruit. Our relationship to sin is changed – because of our relationship with Christ – and now we look nothing like the world
- How is the Spirit transforming you and growing your love for the Lord, day by day?
I can’t know the motives of your heart for your friendships. In fact, Psalm 139.23-24 are two of my favourite verses because they remind me that my sin has so warped me that I can’t even know my own motives – without the help of the Spirit, shining a light into me.
Ask God to help you look past all the world holds dear, to see what he values, what he treasures, and to help you to love with total self-forgetfulness.