1 My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? 2 For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. 3 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, 4 doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives? 5 Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? 6 But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? 7 Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear? 8 Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 9 But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law. 10 For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. 11 For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.” So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law. 12 So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. 13 There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.
If there is one sin that everyone in the world struggles with I have to believe that it’s the one that James is describing in this passage of scripture. How easy is it to play favorites? We do it all the time. Even among the people that we like and consider our friends there are varying degrees of those relationships that result in different ways that we treat them. Our closest friends get more of our time, attention, and affection. We treat them better than we treat our social or casual friends, who we treat better than our acquaintances, who we treat better than strangers, and even among strangers we treat them differently based on how they look or what we do know about them. We are all guilty of this sin, which James explains has significant implications. If we break one part of the law, we break it all.
I think what is most alarming about this passage is the initial statement that James makes: “how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” I can deal with the fact that I am guilty of playing favorites. I can even deal with the fact that by disobeying the command to not play favorite I am guilty of breaking the entire law. But what I wrestle with the most is that James calls all of us out and says if you play favorites, how can you say that you have faith? I believe that this is such a BIG deal to James, as well as God, for one simple reason. Christ loves us all and came so everyone might benefit from His free gift of eternal life.
God is all inclusive, so why shouldn’t those who follow Christ be the same way. Putting this in the context of reaching out to a lost world and sharing our faith even adds another dimension to this. It’s bad enough that Christians don’t share their faith as often as we should, but how guilty should we feel that because we play favorites with some and exclude others, that those left out might never coem to know Christ. I can see the negative impact of playing favorites and how that makes people feel as it is, but to think in terms of eternity and that there are those who will not be in heaven because we, as Christians, have excluded them makes me near sick to my stomache.