by John D. Morris, Ph.D.
"My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons." (James 2:1)
Evidently the believers in the early church were much like us, in that they tended to honor and favor wealthy individuals in their congregations. James commands them to reject such partiality and gives the reasons why.
The first reason is that God's perspective is just the opposite. He favors the one of low rank. "Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom?" (v. 5).
Next, we see that favoritism never impresses the rich--it always backfires. "Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?" (v. 6). Showing favoritism is not practical.
Then, note that the favored ones are probably least deserving. In fact, often "they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called" (v. 7). In doing so, they dishonor the Lord, in whose name we gather.
Finally, such favoritism is a violation of "the royal law," that summary statement of God's plan for our relationships: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (v. 8). If the law is kept, "ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin. . . . For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (vv. 8-10).
Peter had learned this lesson, first in a vision, and then in his miraculous ministry to the Gentiles. "Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34).
As our text reveals, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and showing favoritism on any basis (not only riches, but color, education, ethnic, or national background, etc.) are not compatible. JDM