“Two Reasons Why Discrimination is Evil”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of James 2.1-13 Part 2
James 2. Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most respected leaders of modern history. He was the leader of the Indian independence movement in British-ruled India in the earlier part of the 1900’s. Employing nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Ghandi was a Hindu, but he admired Jesus and often quoted from the Sermon on the Mount. Once when the missionary E. Stanley Jones met with Ghandi he asked him, “Mr. Ghandi, though you quote the words of Christ often, why is that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming his follower?”
Ghandi replied, “Oh, I don’t reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Apparently Ghandi’s rejection of Christianity grew out of an incident that happened when he was a young man practicing law in South Africa. He had become attracted to the Christian faith, had studied the Bible and the teachings of Jesus, and was seriously exploring becoming a Christian. And so he decided to attend a church service. As he came up the steps of the large church where he intended to go, a white South African elder of the church barred his way at the door. “Where do you think you’re going, kaffir [calf-ear]?” (a racial term referring to a black person).
Ghandi replied, “I’d like to attend worship here.”
The church elder snarled at him, “There’s no room for Kaffirs in this church. Get out of here or I’ll have my assistants throw you down the steps.”
From that moment, Ghandi said, he decided to adopt what good he found in Christianity, but would never again consider becoming a Christian if it meant being part of a church.
What that church needed was James 2:1-13. And I’ll point out a couple things along the way…
James 2:1–13 1 My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. [Now, he gives his example in verses 2-3] 2 For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, 3 and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” [now his conclusion….] 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves [or have you not made doubts in yourselves], and become judges with evil motives? 5 Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? 7 Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called? 8 If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. 11 For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.
TRANS: Prejudice or discrimination, favoritism or partiality, whatever you call it, it’s wrong! It’s the unfair favouring of one person or group at the expense of another. Ghandi was one who experienced it first hand. And it prevented him from becoming a follower of Christ.
Our text this morning will be just verses 5-7. And James gives us two reasons why discrimination is wrong.
James’ first reason why discrimination is wrong is this …
Discrimination contradicts God’s honoring of the poor (vv.5-6a)
James 2:5–6 5 Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man….
INTRO POINT: This is contradictory. James’ readers were not choosing the poor, but God chooses the poor. God had at this time chosen many poor people for salvation, but James readers were discriminating against them. Most people were poor in the Roman Empire during this time. You were either rich or poor; there was no sizable middle class. The rich were self sufficient and the poor knew they were needy. Guess who’s more likely to come to Christ? The poor! And so James says…
EXP: God chooses the poor to be rich: This is God’s election; His choice in salvation. He’s chosen them to be rich in faith… He choose them to have faith.
He didn’t choose them because He knew they would have faith; He choose them that they might have faith.
And because of that simple trust in Him, they are heirs of His kingdom. God has chosen many from the poor in society to be joint heirs with Christ, to rule and reign with Him in the future. They simply trusted in Him, and loved Him who has died and has risen again and they were saved. God chose them.
Think of that, God’s chosen him…and you, James says… do you discriminate against him? Why? Because he’s poor? Because he’s got shabby clothes on? You don’t invite him over, go with her, speak to him because of what he wears, or because of what she drives, or whatever?
ARG: Do you really understand God’s work in the earth? Do you understand the gospel and how Jesus sent the gospel to the poor?
When Jesus came, he told John the Baptist’s followers … “the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM.”
1 Corinthians 1:26–30 26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,
God has taken weak, despised things to confound the strong and socially acceptable people. God has chosen the low status people of this world to shame those on their high horses. What then? Do we do better? Never…let us choose the socially despicable just like God has; that’s best.
God is the master at taking weak things, despised, despicable things and turning them into eternal gold for the glory of His own name. God is looking at the future, God sees the despised man’s future glory, God sees His very Son in that weak display of humanity. Will we shame others whom God has chosen? Will we reject what God has received? Are we better than God?
ILL: Our natural tendency is to look down at the down trodden, or the low life in society….but as FB Meyer said, “… it was Jesus’ chosen lot [to be poor]. He had one opportunity only of living our life, and He chose to be born of parents too poor to present more than two doves at his presentation in the temple.
All his life was spent among the poor. His chosen apostles and friends were, with few exceptions, poor. He lived on [donations], rode in triumph on a borrowed [donkey], ate his last meal in a borrowed room, and was laid in a borrowed grave. “Hath not God chosen the poor of this world?”
APP: So really we all-too-easily-misjudge people’s status. Think of Christ and how misjudged He was. You see, as humans we judge temporally; But God judges eternally. We must get our eyes off of this world and onto the next, even as we look at people.
There … right there, whether rich or poor whatever nationality … that’s a soul, a human soul; that’s an immortal being, one who will exist forever.
Rich or poor in the goods of this world make no difference. Status is a facade. Fancy clothes, nice house, lots of land, or toys…it’s all a facade, an empty covering that cannot hide from the presence and judgment of God… it makes no difference, do you believe that?
If we really did, what would be different? Would our pursuits be different? Would our treatment of others be different? What nonsense to highly regard those who have less-than-nothing to look forward to in glory. What nonsense to esteem those whom God has not esteemed, and to honor those whom God has not honored.
But as humans we tend to only honor those that mere humans have honored.
Underneath the facade of status is a naked human soul. Don’t misjudge status. When we fail to do so, we verse 6 says … we dishonor the poor man, who was made in the image of God … and whom God had chosen to be rich in faith. God has honored him with salvation. Let’s truly give honor where honor is due. It’s God’s status, not ours, that makes all the difference.
TRANS: So discrimination in the church is wrong, why? Because first it contradicts whom God really honors. God honors the poor man who has faith in Christ, who loves the Lord. We should honor him too, no matter if it’s his wealth or status or or nationality or education or whatever.
Second reason why discrimination is evil…discrimination fawns…
Discrimination fawns (vv.6b-7)
James 2:6–7 6 ….Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? 7 Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?
EXP: Why do you favor the rich when it is them who are oppressing you? Don’t misunderstand here: James is not counseling to be mean to the rich;
He’s not saying “why do you honor the rich; don’t they drag you into court to oppress you? So, really you should be mean to them.” No, James’ isn’t saying that.
He is simply trying to determine their motives in the question … , “Why should you play favorites toward the rich over the poor? The rich are oppressing you!” James asks a good question to get at the heart of the matter… James is seeking to determine their motives … “Why do you favor the rich? Isn’t it them who oppress you and blaspheme the name of Jesus?” Really, why would you favor the rich? What’s the answer? We don’t know for sure but it could be because they were thinking…, “if we flatter the rich, they won’t oppress us!”
If we flatter them, they won’t drag us into court.
So, they are fawning the rich…they are, to put it bluntly, sucking up to them.
ILL: Many communities have rich people who oppress others. We certainly have them in our communities.
But Jesus says … Mark 10:25 “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Many rich haven’t been honored by God with salvation.
You see the rich in those days were likely also very oppressive. They, James says, were dragging poor people into court or blaspheming Jesus’ name … that is speaking evil of Jesus in some way. And the riched used their wealth and influence to distort justice and get verdicts in court cases, like …incredibly …forcing them to hand over their land for a single late mortgage payment.
The exact opposite of what the disciples thought in Mark when Jesus says it’s impossible for the rich to enter the kingdom of God… “Then who can be saved?” they asked. Riches were a sign of God’s blessing on a person to many people at that time including the disciples and Jesus was correcting them. And in James … it’s the rich who were oppressing the poor.
So why try to gain their approval? That’s what could be going on in James: believers are honoring the rich so that they will not oppress them or persecute them any more. But by doing this they are showing that there are differences between believers; and that’s not the case! This is fawning them, trying to gain their approval.
ILL: This fawning or sucking up to the rich has been built into church life for much of the 1800’s and centuries previous as well through the practice of renting pews. Anglican, Presbyterian, and Catholic churches practice pew rental. This is where, in order to raise funds, whole pews would be rented out or even sold to those willing to buy or rent it. This way, you could guarantee your favorite seat at church.
Some of you might be thinking … “hey, that sounds like a pretty good idea! I’d kind of like to guarantee my favorite seat!” But what this fostered was distinctions in social class. The rich paid the rent; the poor didn’t. For the rich I suppose, church attendance was on a “pay per pew basis.” [some of you will get later…]
An Episcopal church in Manhattan that only recently abandoned pew rents has a delightful story to tell about the practice… Mark Twain, the famous author of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn … and whose 180th birthday is being celebrated this weekend, once entered this church in Manhattan, wandered down the aisle, and took a seat in an empty pew. When the occupant of that pew arrived, the family crowded in with Twain. Soon Twain received a note from the head of the household. “Do you know how much I paid for this pew?” the man had written, with the amount given…. I won’t repeat what Mark Twain said in it’s entirety in order to maintain the dignity of preaching … but in effect he said to the man … “You paid too much.”.
How much? … Well, for Rhodes Street Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Halifax England in 1874 it was 116 pounds…which is the equivalent of over $12,000 pounds today, and double that for Canadian dollars.
But in some places in Halifax,  it could have been as high as 500 pounds, or 55,000 pounds per year.
Who can afford this? The rich! The church becomes a place of the haves and the have nots.
You could picture the rich snobs socialize with other rich snobs after the services while the poor hang out with the poor or simply vacate the building.
APP: Snobbery! But this snobbery in the church still goes on today. I’m thankful I don’t personally notice spiritually snobbery in our church, but we could be tempted this way, for sure.
A full 1/3 of our congregation travels an hour or more to get to church. Half or more of us have travelled 1 hour to get to church at some point in our Christian lives. The present average of our church is slightly more than 30 minutes. There is a danger in this: you can begin to think more highly of yourself than you ought think. “Look how much we sacrifice!” We travel this far to church.
HA … And the people in our communities still go to Not-So-Doctrinally-Rich Church. Aren’t we holier than thou? Be careful in your speech not to turn others off and they think that you think that you are better than they are.
ILL: I remember conversations even in Greenville SC when I lived going to Bible school and there was a Bible-believing and preaching church on almost every corner it seemed … and I and others had the attitude of … you mean, you don’t go to my church…you’re not going to the best church in Greenville, I go to the most biblical church in Greenville…yea, the whole world!
Wrong, very wrong attitude! Called spiritual snobbery!
And what about not getting to know that believer because they seem strange to me or it’s difficult to get to know them or …. we’re not on the same social plane?
What about some church practices where the leadership is given to those who give the most money? or leaders are chosen based on who has the higheset social standing?
Luke 18:9–14 9 And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Do you not want to associate with other people because they don’t share your level of spirituality? They don’t read the Bible like you do and don’t pray like you do? Because if you hang around them, they will bring you down. And so are you despising other believers simply because there’s obvious growth that needs to go on? And if that’s your attitude, then what about you? This is spiritual snobbery. Anyone to the left of me may not be saved or at least they are carnal and anyone to the right of me is Pharisaical. This is contempt!
We humans have a way of turning good into evil. Why, we can even turn the grace of God into a license for evil, and turn the very thing that is meant to set us free…the gospel… and turn it into bondage.
Spiritual snobbery is the pride of an orthodox faith, a faith of correct doctrine. “I’m so glad I’m not like other so called Christians… with all their spiritual problems…I can’t believe they don’t believe like I do about doctrine and church practice … and I’m glad I’m not them… because they have so much growth to do…if only they could have been like me and have seen the light.”
One thing is obviously lacking here: humility. We might hold to the historic orthodox faith and practice here, but facts of doctrine will only become truth of the Spirit in us when we receive it humbly. Pride will blind you even in your orthodoxy.
Tozer says that “knowledge without humility is vanity. The religious snob is devoid of truth” even I might add.. though he may have a PhD in right doctrine.
Be humble; view people as God does, … do you see Him belittling them right now or do you see Him being patient right now? Is He ripping into them or is He gentle with them? Be gentle with them and merciful to them as He is. There will come a time for them to wake up and with gentleness God can do that through you, but be careful not to look down your nose at people.
TRANS: So discrimination contradicts God’s view of the poor, it fawns or sucks up to people. It’s pure evil.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of James 2.1-13 Part 2
Turn to Matthew 23:1-12. We talked a minute ago about pew rental…well there was a certain people group that loved the chief seats …
Matthew 23:1–12 1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. 4 “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. 5 “But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. 6 “They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. 8 “But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 “Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. 11 “But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.
It’s the Pharisees who loved the chief seats in the synagogue. This kind of practice would pit some people against others: It’s called discrimination or favoritism and it’s evil.
And favoritism can be the very thing that prevents someone from coming to Christ. It was that way for Gandhi. I share the following with permission from Alberta, Mr. [deacon name]’s sister-in-law. She said in her younger years she was in Calgary and one of the last times she regularly went to church … she came into the church and sat down. Then an older couple came in and, as you would expect, the couple said to her, “You are in our seat. Please find a different seat.” And she said, “No, you find a different seat.” And there was some more dialogue and then the couple goes to tell the pastor. And the pastor even … comes up to Alberta, a visitor, and he himself requested that she move. And she still refused and the couple did find a different seat.
And then Alberta says to me, “I thought they were supposed to be Christians.” And that, dear friends, is exactly James’ point. How can we hold faith in the Lord of glory in the same hand as we hold favoritism, this snobbery. Don’t we cast doubt to the unbelieving world that we are really Christians?
Ghandi says … , “Oh, I don’t reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ.” So many Christians really aren’t Christians at all; that’s the problem. 332 Just as I am “all can come” GOSPEL….
http://storiesforpreaching.com/why-ghandi-didnt-become-a-christian/; https://books.google.ca/books?id=c5TLAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA237&lpg=PA237&dq#v=onepage&q&f=false ↑
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