Growing by Avoiding Wrongful Discrimination

Dr. Steve Viars September 22, 2019 James 2:1-13
Outline

Isaiah 6:3 - And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.”

Hebrews 4:15 - …but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

1 Timothy 3:15 - “…the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.”

John 14:6 - Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

2 Timothy 2:15 - Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

Psalm 86:5 - For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.

7 reasons the church of Jesus Christ does not, and must not, show favoritism

I. Because of What Favoritism Is

A. By definition

personal favoritism – prosopolempsia

prosopon – “face”, lambanw – “to take or seize”

1 Samuel 16:7 - But 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.”

B. Understanding the balance

Matthew 7:5 - You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

C. When does discrimination become sinful?

1. If the judgments is made on the basis of something the person cannot change or is not responsible for

2. When time has not been taken to gather the facts necessary to make a right judgment

3. When the perceived difference has nothing to do with the matter at hand

II. Because it is so Inconsistent with Our Faith in Our Glorious Lord Jesus Christ

James 2:1 - My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.

A. Think about where you have placed your faith

“the Lord Jesus Christ of the glory”

Exodus 40:34 - Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

John 1:14 - And 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.

B. Scripture repeatedly affirms that God does not show partiality

“Being partial is in total conflict with our salvation and with what Scripture teaches (cf. Lev. 19:15; Prov. 24:23; 28:21). If we are saved, we are children of God; and if we are His children, we should emulate Him. Paul declares categorically that ‘there is no partiality with God’ (Rom. 2:11; cf. Lev. 19:15; Job 34:19; Prov. 24:23; 28:21; Eph. 6:9; Col. 3:25; 1 Pet. 1:17).” John MacArthur, Commentary on James, p. 97

James 2:3 - …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…”

III. Because Wrong Judgments Reveal Evil Motives

James 2:4 - …have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?

A. Note the intensity of the word “evil” in this passage

“…poneros –vicious intentions that have a destructive and injurious effect…” MacArthur, p. 103

B. What this reveals about the heart

James 2:4 - …have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?

IV. Because We Never Know Who God May be Drawing to Himself

James 2:5-6 - 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? But you have dishonored the poor man…

V. Because Favoritism is Illogical

James 2:5 - Listen, my beloved brethren…

James 2:6 - Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?

James 2:7 - Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?

VI. Because it Helps Us Keep God’s Commands

James 2:8 - If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

VII. Because of the Power of Mercy in the Economy of God

James 2:12-13 - So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

- Many of us would say this am that there are certain characteristics of the church of Jesus Christ that we find absolutely delightful…

- it’s part of what gets us out of bed every Sunday morning and makes us want to come on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, and worship the Lord with our brothers and sisters in Christ…

- we love the fact that the church that Jesus is building is has qualities like these…

- now if I asked you to begin listing some of the ideas that fall under that heading, what would come to mind?...

- let’s hope it’s not good coffee and convenient parking…you can get that at Starbucks or Copper Moon…so what do you love about Christ’s church?...

1. My guess is it wouldn’t be long before you’d be talking about the holiness of God…

- we’re never too far removed from the angels in Isaiah 6 who gathered around the throne of God and Isaiah 6:3 - And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.”

- we love the fact that our Savior was…Hebrews 4:15 - …but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

- so to have a Savior and a King who is absolutely holy – completely without sin – is one of the many reasons we have to be thankful because we know He is worthy of our faith and our trust and our allegiance…

2. you would probably also say something about your appreciation for God’s truth…

- Paul explained that the church is…1 Tim 3:15 – “…the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.”

- Jesus said - John 14:6 - Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

- every 5 years when we have one of our congregational surveys as part of our 5 year planning process, what we consistently hear from our church family is that people come to church because they want to hear the truth from the Word of God…

- that’s why Paul instructed Timothy as he carried out his pastoral duties at the church at Ephesus to…2 Timothy 2:15 - Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

- and even when God’s Word tells us truths that are difficult to hear…if it’s true, then we want to hear it because we know deep down that we need to hear it…

- now, when we put these first two ideas together…we know we have a dilemma…

- because we’re thankful that the Lord of the church is holy…

- and it doesn’t take a very long examination of God’s truth to learn that we fall far short of that standard…

3. Which is why we’re very, very, very thankful that the God we come to worship and celebrate each Sunday is filled with grace and mercy and compassion and forgiveness…

- Psalm 86:5 - For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.

- Our holy God could choose to respond to our sin and our weakness and our need in all sorts of ways…we’re thankful and amazed by His grace…

- So there are all kinds of answers we could give to what we are especially thankful for regarding our Lord and the church He is building…

- another powerful answer is this – that our Lord does not show partiality, or favoritism, practice wrongful discrimination…and he has instructed us live in the exact same way…

- with that in mind, please open your Bible to James chapter 2…page ____ of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

- this fall we’re doing a verse-by verse study of the book of James entitled Growth Essentials

- James was the “half-brother of Jesus Christ” [so to speak] and is an amazing story of the very principles we just mentioned about why we love Christ’s church…

- James and his siblings did not initially believe in Jesus…in fact their response to the beginnings of his public ministry was that He had “lost his senses…”

- but then at some point, possibly after the resurrection, James admitted his sin and placed his faith in Jesus as his Lord and Savior…in fact we’re going to read some very picturesque language in just a moment to see how James thought of and spoke about the Lord now…

- James eventually became the pastor at the church at Jerusalem…and because persecution began so early in the history of the church…many of the Jewish men and women who had become Christians were scattered…

- which was one of the ways God accomplished the plan of spreading the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the 4 corners of the known world…

- James wrote this book – which was probably the very first book to actually be written down…to guide and minister to his brothers and sisters who had been scattered…

- and just like the sermon on the mount – the book gives a series of tests to determine whether you genuinely know Christ…

- so chapter 1 talks about the way we respond to trials, and the way we respond to temptations, and whether we choose to be doers of the word and not merely hearers…

- now, if you’ve taken me up on the challenge of reading this book once a week at one sitting during the time we’re in this study, you’ve undoubtedly noticed how short it is…it only takes 15-20 minutes to read all 5 chapters…

- which means that every topic covered is of vital importance…

- that’s why it’s interesting and instructive to note that James reserves a rather sizable portion of the book to address the issue of the church Growing by Avoiding Wrongful Discrimination…

- let’s listen in…read James 2:1-13

- so we’re talking about Growing by Avoiding Wrongful Discrimination…and with the time we have remaining…7 reasons the church of Jesus Christ does not, and must not, show favoritism.

I. Because of What Favoritism Is

- the word translated “personal favoritism” is very powerful in the Bible…

A. By definition

- personal favoritism – prosopolempsia – a compound word

- prosopon – “face”, lambanw – “to take or seize”

- that information makes the point very obvious, doesn’t it?...

- the idea is – when a person is a respecter of persons (cf. the old KJV) or practicing wrongful discrimination or personal favoritism – he is judging an individual at face value…without taking the time to really get to know the person or the situation…

- we say it all the time – “don’t judge a book” by its cover…same idea…

- it’s like God explained to the prophet Samuel regarding the selection of Israel’s next king… 1 Samuel 16:7 - But 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.”

- so it’s amazing when you think about all the things James could have emphasized to these people who are inadvertently perhaps establishing new churches as they flee persecution…he’s sure to tell them – don’t practice prosopolemsia…

- don’t judge people at face value…

- don’t make a determination about how you are going to treat someone with sinful criteria…

- now, while that is of supreme importance…it is important especially in this day and age, to…

B. Understanding the balance

- does that mean that a follower of Jesus Christ should never practice any form of discrimination?...or world would certainly seem to think so…

- I’ve heard politicians say those exact words…all discrimination is always wrong…

- do you realize that statement is self-contradictory?...the person is suggesting that we ought to discriminate against behavior he/she believes is discriminatory…

- this passage has nothing to do with that…

- you discriminate all the time…

- did you wear your entire wardrobe to church this am?...that would have been rather…warm…

- no, you checked the weather and you discriminated against your winter coat by not wearing it (unless you are one of our interns from SA who are already wearing several layers of clothing…)

- you also chose to wear a Purdue T-shirt which means you’re not wearing an IU T-shirt?...why, because you’re a Christian…and a properly discriminating one at that…

- there used to be a day, before political correctness completely engulfed our culture…that you were commended for being properly discriminatory…

- anyone old enough to remember the old advertisements that would say something like – for the discriminating buyer?...or the discriminating palate…

- that was viewed as a good thing practiced by a person who took time to gather facts and determine what the best product was…

- Christians are told to make judgments all the time…including in this passage…judge whether you are making correct judgments…

- invariably someone wants to quote (or in this case, misquote) Matthew 7 and say – well, Jesus said we weren’t supposed to judge…

- that’s not what that passage says at all – it says that we should not judge with in a way that we would not want to be judged with ourselves…

- which is why Christ went on to say… Matthew 7:5 - You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

- it’s not a matter of not judging – the issue is not judging hypocritically…first make correct judgments about yourself then you’re in a proper position to correctly judge others…

- now, bringing all of that back to James 2, he’s talking here about sinful discrimination…wrong discrimination…which leads us to the question…

C. When does discrimination become sinful?

- I suppose there are many ways to answer that…but here are three important ones…

1. If the judgments is made on the basis of something the person cannot change or is not responsible for.

­ - the color of their skin, their nation of origin, their gender, their physical or mental abilities…

2. When time has not been taken to gather the facts necessary to make a right judgment.

- one of the classic examples in the Bible is when the evil priest Eli accused Hannah, the mother of Samuel, of being drunk…

- she wasn’t drunk at all – she was doing something Eli apparently should have done a lot more of…she was praying…

- crying out in anguish to God because of the pain of her infertility…

- and what she needed at that moment was compassionate care by a representative of the Lord and what she received instead was wrongful discrimination…Eli practiced prosopolemsia…

3. When the perceived difference has nothing to do with the matter at hand

- that person’s a republican – he shouldn’t work in the nursery…

- well, it is a difference…compared to those who are democrats…but it’s still wrongful discrimination because the difference has nothing to do with the determination that is being made…

- now, let’s just pause and come up for air for a moment…would anyone here say – I do not have a wrongful discriminatory bone in my entire body…

- really?...it is very easy for us to make snap judgments with all sorts of people in all sorts of settings…

- the church is being warned about this because it is so easy to fall into this trap…

II. Because it is so Inconsistent with Our Faith in Our Glorious Lord Jesus Christ

- It’s really fascinating the way James goes about making this point…

- James 2:1 - My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.

- in other words, you can’t be two of these things at the same time…

- or you can’t hold two of these things simultaneously…

- either you like the Bears – or you like the Packers…

- you like Purdue or you like IU…

- and don’t you love the way the gospel is described here?...

A. Think about where you have placed your faith.

- this phrase could literally be translated – “the Lord Jesus Christ of the glory”

- it probably refers back to God’s shekinah glory we read about in places like Exodus 40 when after the tabernacle was completed… Exodus 40:34 - Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

- the visible manifestation of the power and presence and character of God…

- and that’s who Jesus was, and is…which is why the apostle John said…

- John 1:14 - And 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.

- well, why would it be so incompatible to hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ and practice wrongful discrimination?...

B. Scripture repeatedly affirms that God does not show partiality.

- Being partial is in total conflict with our salvation and with what Scripture teaches (cf. Lev. 19:15; Prov. 24:23; 28:21). If we are saved, we are children of God; and if we are His children, we should emulate Him. Paul declares categorically that “there is no partiality with God” (Rom. 2:11; cf. Lev. 19:15; Job 34:19; Prov. 24:23; 28:21; Eph. 6:9; Col. 3:25; 1 Pet. 1:17) (John MacArthur, Commentary on James, p. 97).

- then James gives a simple example…if 2 men come into the church service…one who is wealthy and the other a “poor man in dirty clothes” – and you treat them differently… James 2:3 - 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,”

- that’s what must not happen in a church…

- you can’t hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ and practice that kind of wrongful discrimination…

- now, this leads to a very obvious question, doesn’t it – do you want our church to be the kind of place where everyone is welcome, and no one faces wrongful discrimination?...

- and I’m not for a second suggesting that we have arrived…or we don’t have plenty of growing to do on all fronts…but I do appreciate the many ways men and women from our church family have tried to obey this principle for decades…

1. For example – in the financial support for missionaries around the world…

- foreign missions has always been a high priority for our church’s budget…why?...

- because many of us learned this children’s song when we were barely out of diapers…red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world…

2. This is why we’ve put so much effort into community based counseling…

- it doesn’t matter about someone’s past…or their economic condition…or their ethnicity…or their gender…

- we are looking for as many ways as we can to encourage everyone in our community to place their faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ…

- and please think a bit more about that word glorious…we have the privilege and responsibility of glorifying Him…or reflecting His glory…

- so we want to avoid any kind of wrongful discrimination because we don’t want to hide his glory under a basket…to use another biblical metaphor, and another children’s song…

3. This is why we have VOH and Men’s Restoration – everyone is welcome…

4. This is why we were so excited about the NCC…because it made it more likely that our ethnic and economic diversity would expand…

- [develop – please pray for us – we have a lot to learn]…

III. Because Wrong Judgments Reveal Evil Motives

James 2:4 - have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?

A. Note the intensity of the word “evil” in this passage.

- James uses three different words for evil in this book…

- the particular one chosen here is most intense…

- poneros – in this case, having vicious intentions that have a destructive and injurious effect (MacArthur, p. 103).

- we live in a world that practices wrongful discrimination in incredible and undeniable ways…

- we may not like to admit it – but that is a significant aspect of our nation’s history and even our state’s history…

- and the church of Jesus Christ has not always been the leader in this area that we should have or could have been…

- and Scripture has a word for wrongful discrimination -- it’s evil – it’s poneros

- and not just evil in terms of behavior…but evil in terms of…

B. What this reveals about the heart

- James 2:4 - have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?

- How does that fit into the conversation?...

- people discriminate in order to get something from the person they are treating favorably…

- so they don’t view other through the lens of how they can serve and love…but through the lens of who they can use and what they can get…

- which is why you could make the argument in this passage that it’s not just the poor man who’s being discriminated against – it’s the wealthy man as well…because the only reason he’s receiving favorable treatment is because the person in the church wants something from him…either his wealth, or his praise, or his popularity…

- this is why I hope we’re doing everything we possibly can – but especially in our children’s and youth ministries to avoid cliques and be a welcoming place for everyone…especially the person who is new…or the person who is different…or the person who has some kind of special need…

- whenever we’re treating others for how we can serve and love whether we ever receive anything in return…that’s when we’re holding the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ in a way that magnifies Him…

- James gives another important reason in verses 5-6

IV. Because We Never Know Who God May be Drawing to Himself

- James 2:5–6 - 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? But you have dishonored the poor man…

- now, this certainly doesn’t mean that there in anything inherently spiritual about being poor --- or anything evil about being wealthy…

- it’s not money that is the root of all evil, but the love of money…

- and Scripture is clear that God gives us all things richly to enjoy…

- but the point is – you would never want to dishonor someone the Lord has chosen…

- and we want to treat everyone without personal favoritism because we never know whose heart God might be especially working in on that particular day…

- I want to thank the students from FCS who took a portion of their Labor Day to serve at Hanna Center’s Hanna Fest…

- it’s no secret that some of the worst discrimination that has occurred in our country and our world is racial or ethnic…

- and we believe God loves the nations…and we want to be leaders in racial reconciliation…

- that’s why we are so glad that two of our partners at the NCC are the Latino Center for Wellness and Education and the Hanna Center

- and we have a lot to learn…and a long, long, long way to go in learning the best ways to minister in a more multi-ethnic and multi-economic ministry setting…

- but young people living like this goes a long way toward making progress at the goal…

- and it had an impact [read the letter from the president of the Hanna Board…]

- [develop also the gospel here – we need Christ to transform our hearts, and then empower our lives to obey this passage]…

V. Because Favoritism is Illogical

- It’s interesting that James paused at the beginning of verse 5 and said…

- James 2:5 - Listen, my beloved brethren…

- in other words, think this through…

  • James 2:6 - …Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?
  • James 2:7 - Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?

- this shows how powerful those evil motives at the end of verse 4 can become…

- we’re not thinking clearly if we show preferential treatment to someone like this…

- this sometimes happens when an entertainer or sports star makes a profession of faith and everyone falls all over themselves to put that individual in the spotlight and push out good people who have been living for Christ faithfully for decades…

- but there’s the evil motive of sharing in someone else’s spotlight or getting something through preferential treatment…

- that approach almost always ends in disaster…

- that’s why its so much better to…

VI. Because it Helps Us Keep God’s Commands

- James 2:8 - If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

- if your neighbor is poor, love him…

- if he’s wealthy, love him…

- if he’s poorly dressed, love him…

- if he’s well dressed, love him…

- love everyone in the same way and to the same degree and you’re always on safe and fertile ground…

- you know – if we practice unloving, wrongful discrimination – we can end up looking shameful and foolish…

- one of my worst days (and there are plenty to choose from) – was when I was in 1st or 2nd grade…

- my mom used to make these killer lunches everyday…

- my sandwich was cut in half and placed in a plastic bag…

- there was always a piece of fruit and of course a hostess twinkee – a snack food that has made me the man I am today…

- a napkin folded in half…

- the brown paper bag folded down just right…

- and I remember one day sitting to a guy in our class…and his lunch was a disaster…

- his bag was crumpled up and had obviously been reused for all sorts of purposes…

- all he had was this sandwich that had a nasty fried egg on it…

- so that gave me reason to make fun of him in front of the other kids…

- and I’ll never forget what he said – my mom died and my dad works nights so this is what he made for me before I had to rush out to school…

- you talk about wanting to disappear…

- and the evil motive was to make a joke at his expense, gain a little popularity by being funny…and if I had to discriminate against somebody else to get what I wanted – so be it…

- discrimination like that is never funny…and it’s never right – for many reasons including how it violates the second great commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves…

VII. Because of the Power of Mercy in the Economy of God

James 2:12–13 - So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

- so if you know Christ as Savior and Lord – who did Christ not wrongfully discriminate against?...

- if He had wanted to find a more gifted person, or a richer or more beautiful/handsome person…He certainly could have done so…but He chose instead to show us mercy…

- and that’s what He wants us to show to others…because mercy always triumphs over judgment…

- possible evaluative questions:

1. Do you use racial slurs?

2. Are you guilty of “course jesting” in ways that could be taken as sinful discrimination?

3. Do you believe you’re better than someone else simply because of the color of your skin, or your gender, or your nation of origin?

4. Do you tend to make snap judgments about people, or do you give them a chance?

5. Do you associate with people who are different than you in our church?

6. Do you associate with people with special needs?


Dr. Steve Viars

Roles

Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation

Bio

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video