James 2:1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.
2 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;
3 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:
4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
James was directed by God to deal with some real problems facing Christians in the first century. They are the same problems that every generation faces. Jesus addressed the problem of being partial to certain people in His public ministry.
The Pharisees prided themselves in being “pious” individuals. They assumed they were far better than those “bad” publicans. Jesus condemned this self-righteousness. The Pharisees had no interest in truth and they had no interest in knowing the true God. They wanted to teach God how to do things. Meanwhile, Jesus acknowledged the sincerity of the publican who understood his need of forgiveness. He understood he was completely at the mercy of a holy and righteous God. He was willing to come before this God and plead for mercy. He received mercy, whereas the Pharisee was condemned.
James pointed out that the brethren were guilty of unfair discrimination. They were claiming to live by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but yet they were acting contrary to the example and teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Pharisees condemned Jesus for spending time with publicans and sinners. They condemned Him for looking after the needs of the poor, while they believed they were too good to stoop to the needs of the working class people. They despised Jesus because He would not endorse their wickedness, which they believed was righteousness.
In verses 2-4 James gave a very clear example of the problem that God wanted him to address. This was not a private letter meant just for these brethren. This letter was published for all saints to read and study in every generation.
There are people who like to make it known they are wealthy. They like to show off what they have. In verse 3 James reminded the brethren that they needed to be careful how they approached the matter of a rich person coming into their assembly and a poor person coming into their assembly.
Churches are not supposed to be focused on money. They are supposed to be focused on the Gospel of Christ.
Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
True churches need to guard against getting into a financial situation where they must have large donations in order to try to pay their debts. When that becomes the issue, then they will be looking for those who seem to be wealthy. They will want to give preferential treatment to them in the hope that they will write a large check to that local church.
A few years back we had a visitor in our church who wanted to know if we issued tax receipts. He asked that question of one of our members before the service started. The person he asked, stated we do not give tax receipts. He stayed for that service. He heard the Gospel, but he never came back again. I assume he had a good year and wanted to give some money so that he would not need to pay so much income tax. Since we did not give tax receipts, he was not interested in attending our church.
We are not a registered charity. Our church belongs to God. We do not need permission from the state to function according to God’s authority. We need to be sure that Jesus Christ is the head of our church. We need His blessing on what we are doing. We try not to show partiality to anyone who comes into our building. We want all to come and hear the Gospel. If the person gets saved, they will understand the importance of giving to the work of the Lord. They do not need to get a percentage of that gift back in order to give. Christians need to be taught to give because they love the Lord. We have seen the results of the many churches who have signed their authority over to the state. The state assumes that it can dictate when a church is open and how many people can attend. That is not the state’s business. That is God’s business. The more people that would attend a true local church and get saved, the better that community would be.
James pointed out that the brethren were partial in themselves. They were using evil thoughts as the basis of their judgment. We are to judge all things. We are to judge righteous judgment.
John 7:24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
James stated that the brethren were looking at outward appearance and judging the person and giving preference to those who seemed to be well to do. That is evil. The local church should not be bought and influenced by people’s pocket books.
Years ago we attended a church where the mayor of the town also attended. It was observed that this man wanted to make sure that he was recognized. He would wait until just before the service would start and then he would march up to the front row and sit down. He was a wealthy businessman besides being the mayor. He had much influence over the affairs of that church. That was not a good thing.
God wants all people to be able to attend a true local church and be instructed in the truth. The local church needs to be the place that teaches the whole counsel of God. It does not matter if the wealthy do not want to hear the counsel of God. All of it is of equal importance.
It is important to hear what God has to say. It is important to be free from patronage and able to preach God’s Word according to His leadership without fear of what some person might think of what is said. Jesus stated that the truth shall make you free. He said that to some pious Jews who claimed to believe on Him. They took offence to the fact that He stated they were in bondage to sin. Jesus further taught them that they were of their father the devil. He did not win any friends from among that crowd. However, He was a true Friend to them because He gave them the opportunity to see who they really were. He gave them the opportunity to see that they were not true believers in Him. They were pretenders.
Jesus knew He was going to be condemned to death by these people and others like them. He knew that He came to lay down His life for the sheep. He came to offer those hard-hearted people the opportunity to be forgiven and saved. He did not run them out of town because of their appearance or something. He gave them the truth. He wanted them to know His forgiveness.
Those who are “brethren” need to be sure they are not beholden to men, but rather that they are true servants of the true and living God.