Symbols of social status in America tend to be material goods. The person at the wheel of the sleek sports car is powerful. The one wearing expensive designer clothing is wealthy. The individual with the latest piece of pricey technology is ahead of the curve. The people seated in box seats or first class need not mix with ordinary folks.
These are worldly standards and ways of thinking. James would have none of it in the body of Christ! For us who have received God’s “good and perfect gift” (1:17) of salvation in Christ, worldly favoritism is not appropriate (v. 1). For example, what if two men came to your church, one in fashionable clothes and one in rags (vv. 2–4)? The worldly response would be to pay more attention to the rich man and usher him to a good seat while ignoring or giving minimal attention to the poor man. In that case, James emphasizes, you’ve “discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts.”
Worldly favoritism goes against biblical principles (vv. 5–7). God has chosen the poor to be “rich in faith” and to “inherit the kingdom.” The rich who exploit the poor and commit other injustices should not be honored for such behavior. Their actions blaspheme God’s name. To show favoritism toward them, therefore, is hypocritical and worldly, the opposite of looking after widows and orphans (1:27).
We tend not to see favoritism as a serious sin, but God does. To Him it is a perversion of justice (see Lev. 19:15). Peter even cited this principle in the context of sharing the gospel with Cornelius and his Gentile household (Acts 10:34–35). In His sovereignty, “God does not show favoritism” based on fallen human standards.
Vice President Debbie Zelinski leads a group of Human Resources professionals on Moody’s Chicago campus. Please commit to prayer this team as they oversee many aspects of our faculty and staff employment, including benefits and compliance.