“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ while you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there,’ or, ‘Sit down at my feet,’ have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well.” James 2:1-6,8
This passage is sharp, dividing the motives of the heart, and goes deep if we allow it. On the surface, we read that we should not favor the pretty and wealthy ones, those who appear to have their lives together and therefore cause us minimal distress, and may, in fact, benefit us. But what I see God teaching more deeply is that when we think this way, we err, not in failing to show compassion to the poor, or feeling sorry for him, but in thinking any differently of him at all. James is pointing out the horror of thinking too highly of ourselves, of ever feeling superior to anyone–that I am better, I deserve better, I should be first, treated preferentially, or with the bold and beautiful (as if they are ‘better’ in any way)–my standards are all wrong when I base any decisions on superficial measures. (Hebrews 4:12; Romans 12:3)
Do I really think I am more valuable than anyone because of any privilege, financial or educational resources, business acumen, physique, background, family advantages, dress, opinions? Of course I deny this, but where has this insidious attitude crept in to my behavior, my speech, my expectations, my treatment of others? Where have niggling thoughts given birth to rolled eyes of the heart, to unspoken dismissal or invisible mistreatment of those I encounter? God created man and woman free from all these trappings man tends to value, and declared His crowning achievement “very good.” Jesus communed with the elite Pharisees as well as the publicans and “sinners.” (Genesis 1:26-31; Luke 15:1-3)
Lord, dig deep to uncover any hidden partiality or wrongly-justified prejudice in me. Expose the absurdity, the wrongness, of preferential treatment. Uproot my sin, cut off its spread. May I see and love and honor and extend grace to all Your image-bearers as generously as You do.