Encounter: Slowly read through James 2:1-13 in The Message and the NIV. Underline any words or phrases that speak to you. Pray and ask God to help you understand why this is important to your own life.
Her name was Mary and everyone in class knew she was the teacher’s favorite. The teacher let Mary sit close to her desk, she was always called on first to help in the classroom and run errands and she was frequently held up as an example for all of us to follow. But it wasn’t this example that most of us would remember. For most of us, we learned very early about how favoritism works in our world. Sadly, we learned that if you were deemed as poor, unattractive and lived on the wrong side of town (or a hundred more reasons) you would never be asked to sit in the best seat in the house.
In James’ day it was no different. Some Christ followers were giving special treatment to the wealthy and were dismissive to the poor. The first-century church, a counter-culture in its society endeavored to break down class distinctions. In the church, a man of influence could find himself rubbing shoulders with slaves—a slave could even be his elder; a slave owner might serve the Lord’s supper to a slave. Such unnatural social behavior shocked those who lived by the prevailing mindset of the day. Many, caving into social pressure, felt compelled to give special treatment to those who were esteemed outside the church.
Again, Pastor James brings a blunt correction. You are a chosen child of God and all of God’s chosen are His favorites, no matter who you are, your economic status, the clothes you wear or which side of the tracks you live on. None of this matters, for the Lord looks at the heart and how we love. So James reminds them and us…
You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: “Love others as you love yourself.” But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it… Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time. James 2:8-13 The Message
Truth is, we all want to be the favorite but in the world’s values, that means someone else has to not be. Thankfully our Creator values everyone the same, loves everyone the same, treats everyone the same and then invites us to do the same. James says being prejudice equals sin and kindness and mercy always reveals who is “Devoted to God with faithful obedience in the same direction.” The message we have to share with our community is, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ we are all God’s favorites.
From One Favorite to Another,
Reflect: In what ways have you witnessed favoritism or prejudice? How does this damage a person’s value of being created in God’s image? Has there been times when you have shown favoritism.
Encourage: Think of someone that may have been on the receiving end of prejudice. This week talk to your kids and family members about this and discuss at dinner time how they have experienced this. Read this scripture from the NLT to your family and encourage one another to love all equally and to repent for those times we have not.
Gather: In our Life Group, Triad or with a friend, talk about the effects of prejudice and favoritism in our culture. Pray together about tangible things you can do to demonstrate to our culture the royal law of freedom and love. Put those on a list of goals and keep one another accountable to follow through. Discuss at a later time how this affected you.