“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, "You sit here in a good place," while you say to the poor man, "You stand over there," or, "Sit down at my feet," have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?”
(James 2:1-7 ESV)
Our natural tendency, as sinners, is to show partiality. We naturally favor some over others. And that favoritism is typically based on our perception of who is the most useful.
A perfect example is the one that James cites above. We tend to favor those who are wealthy over those who are poor. And, why? Because they have the more to offer us.
We might think that this happens in our personal lives, and not so much in the church. But nothing is further from the truth. In reality, this happens as much in the church as it does everywhere else.
The poor are not able to contribute as much as the rich. Therefore, we value their opinions less. And, not only that, but we value their contributions less.
We value their contribution less even though, according to Jesus, the two small coins of the elderly widow were more significant than the donations of the rich (Mark 12:41-44). They were more valuable because, even if her gift was lesser from a monetary standpoint, it was more generous. It was a more sacrificial gift than those given by the wealthy.
Favoritism is even expected in the church by those who are wealthiest. It’s expected because, if the church won’t or can’t spend the money on a specific project, the rich will do it themselves. It’s assumed that the church will never turn away that significant of a donation. They will not turn it away at the risk of losing a member who contributes so much.
We do this despite the fact that God has chosen the poor in this world to be blessed. We do so despite the fact that it’s the rich who oppress us and drag us into court. They do so because they have the means to accomplish their goals.
Showing partiality, according to James, is sinful. In this way, we have made distinctions. In this way, we’ve become judges with evil thoughts.
We can show partiality for other reasons, of course. We can show it based upon a person’s educational level. We can show it based upon a person’s race. We can show it based upon a person’s background.
Whatever the case, when we show partiality, we are not looking at people as God looks at them. We are not valuing people as God values them. The worth of a man, in God’s eyes, is in no way dependent upon his means. His worth is found in the price paid for his redemption.