V11My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with [an attitude of] personal favoritism.. You have seen in the final verses of the previous chapter that God is a caring Father and that He is light and love. By helping widows and orphans you can show that God is a Father Who looks after those who are deprived of all help. Because God also is light, the command goes together with keeping yourself unspotted from the world.
In order to keep you from exaggeration and from falling into Pharisee-ism in your living in separation from the world, James presents to you in the first verse of this chapter “the glorious Lord”. He does that in connection to the admonition that there should be no “personal favoritism” with those who believe in our “Lord Jesus Christ”.
James calls the Lord by His full name, because he must rail against the great evil in the Christian church, regarding giving preferential treatment to certain people, due to their social position. Such a conduct is absolutely in contrast with the Person of Christ and the confession of the faith in Him. Partiality is totally strange to Him (Acts 10:3434Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand [now] that God is not one to show partiality,). That is also not the way He dealt with you and me, right?
When you are impressed by socially successful people, people with a high position, and admire them for the nice looking car by which they come to the meeting and the nice clothes they wear for that occasion, then you have not really looked well to ‘the Lord of glory’. What does that entire earthly splendor mean in the light of His glory?
The Lord had glory with the Father before the world was (Jn 17:55Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.). Also on earth He had glory, not for men (Isa 53:22For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no [stately] form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
), but for those with faith (Jn 1:1414And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.). This glory radiated through His humble stature. He will have glory when He returns to earth (2Pet 1:16-1716For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.17For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased”—). There is also a glory that is typical of Him and which we will see without taking part of it (Jn 17:2424Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.). He is the center and the radiation of all God’s thoughts and glory (Heb 1:33And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,). All glory is in Him.
That glory is in sharp contrast with earthly glory. In the light of the Lord of all glory there is no room for rank or position. Then everything that is attractive to the man of the world shrinks and also the matters that still exert a strong attraction on us as believers, such as wealth, reputation, position and power. Those are all matters that make man blind for true glory and through which he is being drawn to hell. We too are inclined to look at the outward appearance (1Sam 16:77But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God [sees] not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”). Let us bear in mind that what is highly estimated by men is an abomination to God.
Besides, James doesn’t appeal to take away all differences, to eliminate ranks and classes out of the world and make all men to be equal. His intention is that the differences in the social life among the believers in their dealings with one another should play no part. In case that happens, he wants this evil to be judged. Actually there are differences among believers that are to be considered in their dealings with one another, such as a difference in age, in gender, in gifts. Those differences were made by the Lord. The differences are not to be played off against one another, but are supposed to be complementary to one another.
V2-32For 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,3and 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,”. James calls the evil by its name. He describes how men behave towards a rich man and towards a poor man when they enter the synagogue. Both the way of their approach to the rich man and the way of their approach to the poor man are totally wrong. It is far below the level of the glory of the Lord in Whom they say they believe. They look up to the rich man, due to his golden rings and his nice clothes and they look down to the shabby clothed poor man. They guide the rich man with a bow to a nice place, and they give the poor man a standing place or a place at their footstool.
V44have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?. With such a behavior they show an arrogance that comes down to playing the role of judge. They have neither authority nor ability for such a way of acting. The distinction they made, they made by themselves, for their own benefit. There is nothing of the Lord in this matter. On the contrary, they act “with evil motives”. Such an evil motive is for example that they try to gain favor with rich people, because that can deliver them profit. They cannot gain any profit with poor people and therefore they do not care about them.
Do you still remember what James said about ‘pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father’? Was it not that precisely the poor people were to be visited in their affliction? How far away is making this distinction with evil thoughts from the true religion!
V55Listen, 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?. “Listen”, James says. In other words: ‘You must listen very carefully. You are really my beloved brethren and therefore I tell you how God thinks about the socially deprived people. The poor in the world have priority with Him, they have a special place with Him.’
Paul also says that to the Corinthians, who were also that sensitive to the honor and reputation of the world (1Cor 1:16-2816Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.17For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.18For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.19For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”20Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not [come to] know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.22For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom;23but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness,24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.25Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.26For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble;27but 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,28and 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,). The fact that God has elected the poor does not mean that He has elected them because they have no money, but because they have no rights and because they are dependent on others. With God it is about people who are of no account.
Due to their election they became rich in faith. To be rich in faith means to be rich in God (Lk 12:2121So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”). These riches are not to be expressed with money. Even the world is theirs (1Cor 3:21-2321So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you,22whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you,23and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.), because they belong to Him Who owns all the gold and silver (Hag 2:88‘The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,’ declares the LORD of hosts.). They still have to wait for taking possession of that until the Lord Jesus comes back.
The Lord Jesus was the poor One par excellence. He was rich, but became poor for our sake, that we might become rich through His poverty (2Cor 8:99For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.). That poverty was not the stable in which he was born and the swaddling clothes in which he was wrapped, for that could not possibly make us rich. It was also not His poverty on earth, where He had nowhere to lay His head (Mt 8:2020Jesus *said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air [have] nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”). We have become rich through nothing else than through the poverty of the three hours of darkness on the cross, where He carried the judgment of God over our sins.
That is also the only ground on which God could have made us “heirs of the kingdom”. When the Lord Jesus comes back to claim His kingdom, then all heirs will share with Him in His kingdom. God has promised that kingdom “to those who love Him”. James relates the promise of the kingdom to loving God.
That kingdom is only honored by those who know Who God is in His love. The love for God is present with each who knows that God first loved him (1Jn 4:1919We love, because He first loved us.). When you have seen and also experienced that God has loved you, of which the highest proof is the gift of His Son, then there is nothing else left for you than to love Him, isn’t that true?
Therefore you as an heir can also look forward to that kingdom. Up to that moment you are able, just like the poor about whom James is talking, to enjoy your spiritual riches. Do you already know something about your riches? They are all included and hidden in Christ (Col 2:2-32that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and [attaining] to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, [resulting] in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, [that is,] Christ [Himself],3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.). It is up to you to dig them up.
In the light of His riches all riches of the world will lose its grip on you. Each investment of time and effort to make the riches of Christ to be your own, will show its efficiency when the Lord Jesus comes back. When you are that rich you will also be able to make other people rich. Then you can be a person of whom Paul says: “As poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things” (2Cor 6:1010as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.).
V66But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?. James points out to the readers that they have dishonored the poor by treating them with such disdain. They are blind for what these poor ones mean to God. But also for their conduct towards the rich with whom they love to gain favor, they seem to be blind. What God has done to the poor is in sharp contrast to what the rich had done to the poor.
Just take a good look at what the rich are doing, James says. They oppress you and drag you into the courts. You think that you will yield profit when you treat them with tribute, but in the meantime you are being robbed by them. These folks are merciless.
V77Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?. And the worse thing is: through the conduct of the rich the “fair name” of the Lord Jesus by which you were called, is being blasphemed. Therefore there is absolutely no reason to look up to them and to approach them obsequiously.
Now read James 2:1-7 again.
Reflection: Do you approach your fellow believers without personal favoritism?