Tuesday, December 07, 2010


TODAY'S SPECIAL: James 2:1-26

TO CHEW ON: "Have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?" James 2:4

I can't help but think, as I read the first part of James, how partiality-based is the culture in which I live.  On my local TV lineup is an hour-long daily news show devoted to examining the mundane minutiae of the lives of entertainment and sports personalities. It is these people who set the social and fashion trends so that years ago we all got Farah Fawcett and Beatles haircuts, while now little girls swoon for Justin Bieber, dress like Lady Gaga, and mimic Taylor Swift. And we're all encouraged to get our coffee at Tim Horton's because Sidney Crosby does. We give these people our acceptance and adulation because of their appearance, wealth, and how well they entertain us.

I understand partiality very well, for I struggled with it as a youngster. If a person who acted odd or dressed funny came to school or church, I sure wasn't the one to befriend her. I see now that my cold unfriendliness was based on insecurity and lack of self-confidence. They were related to the fear of being identified with or appearing to be the same kind of person as the outcast was (the flip side of befriending a popular person to gain acceptance by association). Pride and covetousness (especially when there is the hope that by fawning over the popular person, he or she will include us in his generosity) are two more roots of partiality.

James gives an easy-to-understand example of partiality in verses 2-4, describing how, when his readers meet together, they give special treatment to the people who look rich while ignoring the ones who look poor. He points out how nonsensical this way of acting is in the natural because the people to whom they are showing special favour are the ones who are oppressing them.

The clincher in his argument against partiality, though, is that it's not God-like. James calls these biased Christians "judges with evil thoughts" because they are judging by the world's standards, not God's. Showing special favour on the basis of appearance, wealth, popularity, performance, and status is not at all consistent with the upside-down Kingdom of God way of evaluating. James describes that in verse 5: "Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?"

I can't help but think of Jesus' own standards of Kingdom greatness:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit...those who mourn...the meek...those who hunger and thirst after righteousness...the merciful...the pure in heart...the peacemakers...the persecuted...the reviled and falsely accused..." (Matthew 5:1-12).

There's not one mention in Jesus' list of physical appearance, worldly wealth, or influence mattering to God accepting us. That's the standard we need to use when we respond to others.

PRAYER: Dear God, I so easily show partiality. Help me to understand the source of this shallow way of responding to people, and to adopt Your way of looking past outward appearances to the inner person. Amen.

MORE: Seven Reasons Why We Should Not Show Partiality:

1. Partiality contradicts faith in Jesus Christ as the Lord of glory (vs.1)

2. Partiality reveals a judging heart and behind it evil thinking (vs. 2-4).

3. Partiality to the rich contradicts God's heart, because he has chosen many of the poor for himself (vs. 5).

4. Partiality dishonors people created in the image of God (vs. 6a).

5. Partiality to the rich backfires and becomes your downfall (vs. 6b,7).

6. Partiality makes you a transgressor of the law of liberty (vs. 9-11).

7. Partiality is not mercy. But if you don't show mercy, you will perish (vs. 13).
From "The Peril of Partiality" By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

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