Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Showing Partiality

Showing Partiality
James 2:1-13

Skit 1: The Hungry Working Class (1 Corinthians 11:17-22)
            Need at least 2 poor working class people who are hungry; at least 2 rich people; and 1 narrator.
Skit 2: Social Classes at Church (James 2:1-4)
            Need at least 2 rich people; at least 2 poor people; 1 usher; and a narrator.
Text: 1 Corinthians 11:17-22; James 2:1-13

1 Corinthians 11:17-22
But in the following instructions, I cannot praise you. For it sounds as if more harm than good is done when you meet together. 18 First, I hear that there are divisions among you when you meet as a church, and to some extent I believe it. 19 But, of course, there must be divisions among you so that you who have God’s approval will be recognized!
 20 When you meet together, you are not really interested in the Lord’s Supper. 21 For some of you hurry to eat your own meal without sharing with others. As a result, some go hungry while others get drunk. 22 What? Don’t you have your own homes for eating and drinking? Or do you really want to disgrace God’s church and shame the poor? What am I supposed to say? Do you want me to praise you? Well, I certainly will not praise you for this!

James 2:1-13
My dear brothers and sisters,[a] how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?
 2 For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting[b] dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. 3 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, 4 doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?
 5 Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? 6 But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? 7 Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name[c] you bear?
 8 Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[d] 9 But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.
 10 For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. 11 For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.”[e] So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law.
 12 So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. 13 There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.

Tonight we are going to continue our journey through James. Today’s passage can be divided into two distinct but connected sections. One is showing partiality, which is a sin; and the other is the dangers of committing that one sin.
Most of you all know that for my day job I work in the Home Improvement business. Home Improvement is quite a bit different than new construction in many ways, but most importantly because the home owners have already moved in, have all of their stuff there exactly where they want it, and are usually there watching over you like a hawk. I have worked in million dollar homes that were kept in immaculate shape, and I have worked in homes that were completely covered with cockroach parts including parts that got crushed by the rubber seal around the refrigerator door. On that particular house, another contractor, who needed to use the restroom, took one step inside, turned around, and found an alternative solution to his problem. I have worked in houses where the home owner baked brownies for us every day which I gladly accepted, and I have worked in a house where the homeowner was a hoarder, the house was a complete disaster, and she offered us fudge-cicles everyday. I wouldn’t have eaten one of her fudge-cicles if I was running a marathon on the equator. I’ve worked in really expensive houses where the homeowner gave us a key and told us to lock up when we were done. And I have worked in some terrible looking places where the homeowner watched us to make sure we didn’t steal anything.
            One thing I take pride in while working is that I will treat your house like I would want my house treated by a hired handyman. This also means that I want to be treated how I would treat a hired handyman, with respect and dignity. It doesn’t matter if I’m working on the governor’s house or some rundown house I will do my best to get the job done properly, efficiently, and clean up after myself. I remember the one and only time Rebekah came to work with me, I was having some issues getting the soffit put back up just right and the homeowner let me have it. I was already frustrated when he fired off this zinger, “You wouldn’t leave this like this at your home.” I was already walking around to the back of the house when he said this, then he turned to my beautiful bride and said very arrogantly while laughing, “Oh, I got him with that one!” I don’t know who he thought she was but he definitely didn’t know she was my wife. The fact is that I wouldn’t have left it like that, and I wasn’t planning on leaving it like that, but my options were extremely limited at that particular moment. That one comment took a shot at my integrity and I’ll never forget it. He judged me without knowing me.
            Why is it that we treat people differently based on their socio-economic status (In youth slang: how much Benjamins they got rolling in)? Why do some contractors do everything they can to go above and beyond what a rich person needs done and will cut corners on a poorer man’s house? James instructs us that when we show partiality we become judges with evil thoughts. We start judging people by what’s on the outside rather than what’s on the inside. How many of you have ever met a man or woman that would be considered poor by the world’s standards but you would trust that person beyond a shadow of doubt? Now how many of you have met a man or a woman that would be considered rich by the world’s standards that you wouldn’t trust with your cheeseburger if you had to go to the bathroom? There are great people at every station of life, and there are terrible people at every station of life. There are people who favor the rich and there are people who favor the poor. The greatest mistake we could make is to judge someone based on their outward appearance or financial standings rather than what lies inside.
            James calls “love your neighbor as yourself” the royal law—a law that is superior to all other laws, but if we show partiality we sin. You might say, “Eh, what’s the big deal if I show partiality?” You know just yesterday I was at Chic-fil-a and I saw a family coming in the door that I was standing by and one of them was wearing a University of Michigan sweatshirt. I wish that God said I was to love my enemies except for UM fans but he didn’t. When every fiber of my being said “Lock the door, turn off the lights, and everybody get down,” my non-partiality side said to open the door for them. Now if I can do that, what can you do?
            It’s hard to evaluate how we might be showing partiality because it is hard to evaluate ourselves, but here are some questions we could be asking. 1) Am I fine with the people who are coming to this church, including visitors, as long as they look, dress, and/or smell like me? 2) Am I fine with the songs we sing as long as they are hymns? Or Praise songs? 3) Do I get uptight when someone reads from a particular translation of the Bible that I don’t read from? 4) Do I believe that there is a standard for behavior within the worship service that includes, standing, kneeling, clapping, saying “Amen,” and raising their hands? Tough questions.
            I remember reading a story that took place at a church near a beach. The service had already started when a young man walked in wearing cutoff jeans, a tank top, and was barefoot. Every seat was taken as he slowly walked down the aisle scanning for an empty seat. Finally he plopped down, and sat cross legged in front of the first pew. The congregation was distracted and a little bit shocked by the whole thing, and most of them nodded approvingly as the head deacon approached the young man. I mean it was kind of unfortunate but something had to be done. The deacon, no spring chicken himself, made it to the front row, plopped down, and sat right next to him. The young man gave his life to Christ that day. How many of us would have done that?
            Partiality may seem like such a small thing when compared to murder, or adultery, but James says in verse 10, “For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.” What happens to someone if they live a completely perfect life except they sin one time? They go to hell. God is so pure and holy that He cannot be in the presence of sin. He hates it. I use this analogy all of the time because it is so perfect, and I will continue to use it until someone comes up with a better one. Imagine a five gallon bucket of the best ice cream in the world sitting right next to a five gallon bucket of poop. All of the ice cream in the world won’t change that bucket of poop one bit, but one speck of poop in that bucket of ice cream ruins the whole bucket. Your sin is the speck of poop in God’s ice cream. If the story ended there it would be tragic, but it doesn’t. God sent His son to take care of our sin problem once and for all, but we have to let Him in. Simply knowing about God is not enough. We have to accept Him as both our Lord and our Savior.