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Snobbery and Favouritism James 2:1-13

This week James focuses on a problem within the early Christian fellowship that is just as relevant today – snobbery and favouritism.
It’s human nature to gravitate towards likeminded people, but too often, the successful, wealthy, and beautiful people attract our attention over those less fortunate in worldly terms. Even our cosy church social groups can exclude others, especially newcomers. For James, such partiality is something abhorrent and quite evil.

James asks, ‘My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favouritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?’ [v1 NRSV]. James maintains that favouritism in relationships, whether based on wealth or common interests, insults Christ and breaks God’s royal law [v8] of love (‘…love your neighbour as yourself…’ Lev 19:18) and his command to show no partiality (Deut 1:17). Favouritism wrongly implies that some are more acceptable than others, when all are precious in God’s eyes.

James makes an interesting observation: those without status or wealth seem to respond more readily in faith toward the Christian gospel and are thus incorporated into the kingdom of God [vv5-7]. Those with wealth and status seem to oppose the gospel, James says.

Is this still true today in our affluent middle class society? Do some churches pander to cashed-up professionals to ensure viability? What about our own relationships?

Favouritism in any shade is to break God’s perfect law of freedom [v12] encapsulated in the law of love [vv8-9] – a law broken in part is nonetheless a law broken and we become liable to God’s judgement and condemnation. James cites Jesus in encouraging us to motivate our love with mercy, just as mercy will be shown to us [Matt 5:7].

As we look to Come to Church Sunday on Sunday 18th September, here’s the challenge…smile and say hello to everyone you meet today. And if someone says hello to you, return the gesture with a smile using their name if you can. Don’t be selective – share it with everyone – make it a habit. Spread a little love – it feels good!