My brothers and sisters, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ,
don’t show favoritism.
Suppose a man comes into you meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes,
And a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in.
If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes…
and [dismiss and disrespect] the poor man,
have you not discriminated among yourselves
and become judges with evil thoughts?
…If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture,
“Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.
But if you show favoritism, you sin…
James 2:1-4, 8-9
Don’t show favoritism…if you show favoritism, you sin. Oh, my. Taking this Scripture really to heart breaks my heart. It uncovers my sinful heart tendencies more than I really want to admit. Now, I’m not one to fawn all over somebody just because they’re somebody special or, at least, I judge them as more special than someone else. Yet, when I take this teaching from God’s Word seriously and look honestly into my own heart, I have to admit that I do treat different people differently. I do show favoritism. My favoritism pendulum may not swing too widely, or too obviously, when it comes to how I view and treat people differently. Maybe no one else would ever notice the subtle changes – the subtle swings – in my behavior due to my judgments of different people. But they’re there. Lord, forgive me.
Not long ago, this truth was driven home in a very personal, all-up-in-my-face kind of way. Literally. I had just gone through an intensive surgery in my mouth. Over the next two weeks my entire face was grotesquely swollen and disfigured with crazy and very colorful bruising. About the fifth day after surgery, with my face still looking quite hideous, I braved going out in public to accomplish a few necessary errands. Because life just doesn’t stop for ugly. What I experienced went from feeling uncomfortable to feeling outright dismissal and disrespect from others. At one shop where I was the next in line, one man actually looked at me then stepped in front of me. After that, the man working the register looked at the woman behind me and said, “Hey, beautiful. What can I get for you today?” I don’t share this example (and trust me, there were several more during my grotesque face phase) for any kind of sympathy. God used these experiences to make me more intimately aware of, and sincerely sorry for, even my most subtle of favoritism pendulum swings.
I, and probably you as well, tend to judge people by their outward appearance – whether we judge them by their color, their size, by evidence of their intelligence or wealth, by their occupational position or talent, or by what we consider to be beautiful. We show favoritism.
May each of us check our hearts and ask God to give us purer love for all others and set us free from every prejudice, every swing of favoritism, that would block us from seeing each person for who he or she truly is: An image-bearer of our Loving God, our Holy Creator.
In love, peace and purposeful passion,