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February 9, 2014
“Avoid Showing Favoritism”
(Click here for PDF: Avoid Showing Favoritism Sunday School Lesson, or simply click the print button below. Enjoy!)
(Please Note: All lesson verses and titles are based on International Sunday School Lesson/Uniform Series ©2010 by the Lesson Committee, but all content/commentary written within is original to wordforlifesays.com unless properly quoted/cited)
We all remember those playground days when the team captains stood in the front of the group declaring in order the people that were worthy to be on their team. One by one they would call out the names, from the greatest to the least that would help them win the game. Sometimes this decision was not made on ability so much as favoritism. Some in the crowd dared not look up, afraid of the desperation showing in their eyes of not being called last again.
This playground mentality humiliated some for the benefit of others, something James would not let Christians get away with in the church. Have you ever seen in your own church some treated unfairly due to their lack of prestige as opposed to others?
In light of the verse that says, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags,” (Is. 64:6a), how would we feel if God look at our sin-stained stated and judged us unworthy to receive His favor? Let’s get into this lesson so that we may learn to appreciate all that God has done for us and that we might “Avoid Showing Favoritism.”
James 2:1 “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.”
“Have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . with respect of persons.” Let’s view our “faith” in light of what it really is. We were no good – period. We have not righteousness on our own, Philippians 3:9. Our world before our faith in Christ is described as being “dead in trespasses and sin,” (Eph. 2:1). We were tore-up from the floor up (as they say :)), not fit for a heavenly home. Check out these two Youtube video links to see how these young people illustrate this point: “Before We Met Christ” and “After We Met Christ” (Love it!)
But, “He was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification,” (Rom. 4:25). “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on a tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed,” (1 Pet. 2:24). Knowing what He did for us and where He brought us from we are commanded not to use our faith as an occasion to have “respect of persons.” One is not to use their time of assembling together to belittle some and exalt others through favoritism.
James 2:2-4 “For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?”
“Goodly apparel” versus “vile raiment.” These were the precursors by which men “become judges of evil thoughts.” Outward appearances become the criteria by which one determines where one is worthy to be seated. If this is the case then one shows their way of thinking that they are “then partial in yourselves.” This spirit of dividing and categorizing people based off of a superficial standard dwells in them.
It’s so easy, by human standards, to fall into the trap of viewing with the eyes and judging one’s status. This is called “stereotyping,” when one thinks they know you by how you appear and places you in a certain category and deems that’s where you belong.
Even the prophet Samuel fell into this dangerous mindset in searching for the next king of Israel. Judging by the mighty men before him, one of these, all appearing to fit the outer criteria, had to be the one. God rebuked such notions and told him, “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart,” (1 Sam. 16:7). Check out my article on: “God’s Heartward Perspective.”
With such a profound biblical example of exactly what James is teaching let us take heed to this warning found in Leviticus 19:15 where it says, “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, no honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor.”
Our faith is founded in Christ who Himself said, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment,” (Jn. 7:24). Place seating according to “goodly apparel” versus “vile raiment” is judging “according to appearance.” It’s sizing people up according to what they can afford buy or do for another.
This is unjust thinking. God wants equal opportunity Christians for God Himself shows no partiality, Romans 2:11. His Son came and died so that the whole world, not just some specific groups whom we count worthy, might be saved, John 3:16. When one goes against His basis of salvation and opts to show favoritism according to what is seen, on the outside of a man, they “become judges of evil thoughts.”
James 2:5 “Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?”
“Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom?” Jesus once taught, “The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment,” (Luke 12:23). Yet, these temporary things are what man strives for the most to achieve. One can have all the treasures in the world and “is not rich toward God,” (Luke 12:21). These shall never inherit His “kingdom” in that coming day.
Those whose boast is in their material wealth; those whose pride rests in all they have acquired are actually lacking the most important thing to enter that kingdom: a “love” relationship with “Him.” Revelation 3:17 shows how things will never satisfy that holy requirement: “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”
In other words, according to the world’s system of judging success these thought they have what it takes to enter that “kingdom.” Yet, they were really the ones who lacked the most. Jesus’ instructions were, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich . . .,” (Rev. 3:18). Jesus has been proven as the only way to enter that “kingdom” and He wants people to depend on a “love” relationship with Him, not material possessions.
Matthew 5:3 tells us, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Those that recognize their depravity are prone to be more dependent on the grace of another, be it in the natural or spiritual. The natural poor have nothing great to boast of, no apparent accumulation of goods and accolades, to give just cause to receive favor. The same is true for the spiritually poor. These are usually the ones marked as being “rich in faith” because they depend on what He can do and has done for them and not their own selves or riches.
James 2:6-7 “But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?”
James really drew his readers in to really examine their unjust actions. Their inequality of treatment toward the “poor” was wrong and they did their fellow man a great disservice by despising them. This treatment of being “despised” for their lack goes beyond just making them feel rejected; rather through their preference of the rich they are showing hatred toward the “poor.”
To James this made no sense because it is the rich who are always at enmity with them. He questions them, “Do not the rich oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?” This, to him, was all backwards thinking.
Those in power and authority often act with great contempt toward the common man and sometimes toward God also, thinking their status in life affords them special privileges. They would “oppress” their fellow man and take them to court, using their wealth to gain favor not normally available to the poor.
If you will allow me to paraphrase, James said, “Not in here. Not in the church.” This is a place for all to humbly submit in worship before the Lord and there is no favoritism allowed. When they come into this building the only thing that matters is what the inner man possesses; and not the outward possessions.
James 2:8-9 “If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love they neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.”
“If ye fulfill the royal law according to scripture.” One day, a lawyer thinking to trip Jesus up on His words, asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” (Mt. 22:36). Jesus took no time in answering him and immediately said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment,” (Mt. 22:37-38).
But, Jesus didn’t stop there. This was a prime teaching opportunity to let them know how they treat people matters, also. So, He went on to say, “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thy self,” (Mt. 22:39), words James also reminds them of.
Treat people as you yourself would want to be treated. This is reminiscent of our lesson: “Living as God’s People” on January 12, 2014 (www.wordforlifesays.com, click to read more). “God is love,” (1 John 4:8), and those that belong to Him should operate in love also. Love is an energy that supplies the deepest crevices of man, filling a longing that has been present since the time of conception. Everybody wants to be loved, no matter their status in life and the church should be a supply source of His great love. More is found in other articles: “Covered By Love!” and “Love Without Hypocrisy!”
“But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin.” In Matthew 22, when Jesus listed these two greatest commandments He also stated, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets,” (vs. 40). How we treat people really does matter. Showing “respect” to one who seems to be more affluently endowed could cause unfair actions toward those who are not, thereby committing sin.
Think about it. One of the greatest commandments spoken by our Lord was focused on how we treat others. To go against that grain of love that He lived and died for is to go against Him. When one chooses to side with the rich (or any unjust group) they choose to partake in the oppression that that one exudes.
James 2:10-11 “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.”
Sin is sin! If one treats his fellow man wrong he is just as guilty as if he had committed any other sin. This is why he is teaching for the Christians to avoid it. It’s not just an unpleasant way of acting; it is sin!
One can cross every “T” and dot every “I” of the law, but if “they offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” “All unrighteousness is sin,” exclaims 1 John 5:17. If it goes against His commands, it is sin no matter how small or large we may view it. “For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee,” the psalmist said in Psalm 5:4. God hates all sin, Psalm 11:5.
James 2:12-13 “So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.”
One day judgment is coming and how we treated others will come back on us. If no “mercy” was shown toward one’s fellow man than don’t expect “mercy” for you, James taught. In other words, he was teaching them the same way they judged whether one was worthy to sit here or there is the same way they will be judged. “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again,” (Mt. 7:2). All decisions have repercussions. Measure for measure, pay day is coming.
This is a phrase I’ve mentioned several times in this lesson and I’m going to say it here again as my conclusion, “The way we treat people matters.” It even has with it its eternal rewards or judgments so let us “Avoid Showing Favoritism.”
Below you will find activities to support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
Draw the Scene: Avoid Showing Favoritism Draw the Scene
Below are more Resources/Links/Activities to support this week’s lesson. A lot of the “Love One Another” Activities are great to go with Verse 8 of today’s lesson. Enjoy!
“Bible Crafts for Children on Friendship” (Scroll down to the Love One Another craft idea. Love this thumbprint idea. Enjoy!)
“Love Bible Crafts and Activities” (Here are several unique and great ideas that can be easily applied to this week’s lesson. Enjoy!)
“Love One Another Bible Activity” (If you have old magazines laying around ready to be cut up then this is for your class. Learn how to make friendship stickers here. Very creative! Enjoy!)
“Heart Laced Bookmark” (Can someone say, “Easy!” Yes, this is. Simply print out onto cardstock, have students decorate with a verse from today’s lesson and lace it up with yarn or ribbon. What a nice reminder for them to take home and use. Enjoy!)
“The One Who Unites Hearts” (This isn’t the first time I have listed this one. Yet, when we get an easy printable that applies well to a lesson, it’s hard to let go of. Don’t forget to use cardstock. Enjoy!)
“Love One Another Bible Bookmark” (Print and color. It’s that easy. Enjoy!)
“Christian Crafts for Kids About Judging Others” (There are several ideas that can easily be adapted for our lesson this week but I especially like the idea of a Stop Sign Keychain. What a great way for one to remember to “stop” before judging people based on their outer appearance. Enjoy!)
THE GOLDEN RULE:
“Golden Rule Crafts” (Here are several good crafts and ideas to choose from. I particularly like the Hearts of Gold Craft. If you can’t find a wooden heart to paint with gold glitter, you know me, cardstock or construction paper will work just as fine. Enjoy!)