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James 2.1-13 Sitting and Standing

November 1, 2009 Series: James | Retro-Faith

Topic: New Testament Passage: James 2:1–2:13

James 2.1-13 sitting and standing

November 1, 2009

Sam Ford



I hope you enjoyed your Halloween.  I always find it hilarious how unsettled some Christians get during Halloween—trying very hard to reclaim the day for Jesus.  Maybe we should just call it depravity day and dress up according to how sinful the Bible describes us as—we’d be ugly.  I am grateful my parents were never the sort to freak out about that I wanted to be the scariest zombie with blood and goo all over as opposed to a fireman or cowboy.   I am sorry, but Christians who get bent out of shape about Halloween remind me of thoseOlderHigh Schoolkids, or adults, who knock come to my door for candy—they’ve never really grown up.  You don’t have to be afraid to live.


***JAMES 2.1-7 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.  2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?


Review of the lie

The first chapter of the book of James is about loving God with all of our hearts, with all of our soul, and with all of our strength.  It describes WHAT FAITH IS:  a trusting relationship with God that is foundational to experiencing life as it is—as opposed to as it seems.  It is about loving God in our trials, loving him more than our idols, loving for freeing us from the bondage of sin, and loving by believing and obeying what he says is true, right, good, and pure. 


We ended our study of chapter with James addressing two ways we deceive ourselves about God and His Word.  One way we deceives ourselves is convincing ourselves that hearing God’s Word is enough.  The truth is that, though faith comes from hearing the Word of God, when the Word of God takes root it comes to govern our words, our actions, even our attitudes.  CHRISTIANS DO GOD’S WORD. 


The second lie comes straight from the mouth of Satan himself who said that doing God’s Word is restrictive, that God is in fact a cosmic killjoy who tells his children lies so they won’t have fun.  Satan is the liar.   “You shall not surely die.  God knows that your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  The truth is that sin, or disobedience to God’s Word, enslaves us.  Our desires pervert creation, designed to bring glory to God, and we use it, both people and things, to bring glory ourselves.  Obedience to God’s Word frees us to live and enjoy the life God made for us.


V. 1 The Lord of Glory

The second chapter of James moves from our Love for God to our Love for People—it is HOW FAITH IS LIVED OUT.  Love for God is primary to our love for people.  We cannot love people without first being loved and loving God.  We can easily be tempted to become “religious”, focusing on an external display of faith, to prove to ourselves AND to others that we really love God.  BUT, a genuine love toward others is not created from external pressure to be compassionate—it’s driven by our faith in the gospel.  When we fail to love others, it is not simply cold, insensitive, or selfish it is failure to believe the gospel.  One of the most common ways in which we do this, James says, is to show favoritism, or PARTIALITY.  Favoritism literally means, “receiving the face.”  God judges the heart, but men wrongly judge by external appearances.  Include some and exclude others.   This type of rejection is the direct opposite of the gospel.  


Before he gives a particular example of how this is being played out in the life of this church, James emphasizes the fact that an attitude of favoritism AND faith in Jesus are incompatible.  And he uses an unusual title, calling Jesus THE LORD OF GLORY.  This occurs only one other place in the N.T., used by Paul in describing the crucifixion of Jesus.  1Corinthians 2.8 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. From an earthly perspective, the cross is anything but glorious.  From an earthly perspective, Jesus hanging on a Roman weapon of execution doesn’t look like a magnified Lord, but a victimized peacemaker who was wrongfully murdered.  From an earthly perspective, the cross of Jesus is a tragedy not a victory, a mockery of justice, senseless and avoidable.  Even BEFORE Jesus got the cross, he was despised as a traitor, and rejected as a fool and a demon possessed liar.  Isaiah 53.1-3 predicted:

Who has believed what he has heard from us?

And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

     2     For he grew up before him like a young plant,

and like a root out of dry ground;

          he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,

and no beauty that we should desire him.

     3     He was despised and rejected by men;

a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;

          and as one from whom men hide their faces

he was despised, and we esteemed him not.


Jesus was murdered when was approximately 33 years old.  He ministered for three years, but for 30 years he lived in relative anonymity—he looked liked everyone else.  And that was part of the problem.  From an earthly perspective, Jesus was the illegitimate son of a teenage mother, growing up in the armpit of Galilee in a small city calledNazareth.  When he started his ministry, he was unemployed, penniless, homeless, and physically unimpressive.  All of that was from an earthly perspective.  We all are quick to think and speak judgment on what we see.    1Samuel 16.7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”


The truth was that this man was and is THE LORD OF GLORY.  The glory of God dwelled in the person of Jesus.  The same awe-inspiring glory of God that settled upon and filled the tabernacle in the desert (Exodus) is now fully displayed in Jesus of Nazareth.  Jesus is not only God-like, God is Christ-like. This is the heart of the gospel:  Philippians 2.6  though he was in the form of God…made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men…2Corinthians 8.9 …though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.


v. 2-4 The Hypothetical Situation

James sets the stage for explain how we are to live out the truth of the gospel—because we don’t have the reputation of doing this well. In James’ church, as they gathered in the synagogue, for either a worship service or a judicial proceeding, the congregation was making distinctions between the rich and the poor based on external appearances. When a rich guy entered into the meeting, they were immediately given attention and given the good seats, while the poor were ignored and instructed to stand uncomfortably in the back or sit on the floor.  And James says, you have become JUDGES with EVIL THOUGHTS. 


We all do this, we all judge people, we all show partiality.  We TREAT PEOPLE different according to their outward appearance.  In James’ church, it is most evident in the relationship between the rich and the poor.  But in our church today, it can be any number of things:  Rich, poor, educated, uneducated, fat, skinny, artistic, not artistic, pretty, ugly, talkers, non-talkers, young, old, singles, families, etc.  We all have our SCALES we measure people demonstrating our various prejudices.  We gravitate toward those who are like us or retreat from those who are not.  We judge whether or not a person can help us or not, and we reject those who can’t and accept those who can.    


V. 5 Chose the Poor

Practically, James can’t believe this because the rich are the jerks.  He can’t believe that they are giving MORE respect to the people are treat them so terribly in addition to blaspheming their LORD.  They, like us, are consumed with measuring all things according to the world’s standard of success.


Spiritually, James tells them this behavior is contrary to the gospel.  Favoritism, survival of the fittest, is the world’s system and the gospel is a complete reversal of the world’s values.  As Tim Keller writes, “Jesus wins our salvation through losing. Christ wins our salvation through losing, achieves power through weakness and service, comes to wealth via giving all away. And those who receive his

salvation are not the strong and accomplished but those who admit they are weak and lost.”  Believing this changes everything.  In Jesus, we understand that we are saved by pure grace and so we stop seeking approval, success, or salvation in material things.  And we stop judging those around us in the same way.  IF WE DON’T—then we believe we’re better—and we don’t really understand or believe the gospel.  


***JAMES 2.8-11  8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.


v. 8-8 The Royal Law

James charges them to fulfill the Royal Law, the seemingly simple command of Christ to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  Living the Royal Law means REALLY loving, as opposed to just not hating them.  How did our King love?  Our King of glory served and was rejected so we didn’t have to be.  Our King died so that we might be treated like RoyaltyWe are to treat others like Royalty—“considering others are more important than ourselves—including their needs, their wants, their words, their ideas, etc”  We fail to live out the Royal Law when we only love those who are easy to love while we ignore those we don’t naturally care about.  Such a practice not only dishonors our neighbor, but it dishonors Jesus himself who was neither rich, nor beautiful, nor successful by the world’s standards. 


James was aware that many would dismiss their offense as “not a big deal.”  In writing to mainly Jewish Christians, he uses the “Law” to emphasize that this is not some trivial offense.  And he gives us an image of the law, which is largely an image of sin, warning us not to put our lives on “Good and Bad” scales.  God’s Moral Law is not like a pile of stones that, if one is taken away, still looks like a pile of stones.  The Law is like a pane of glass that you throw one of those stones through—it all breaks.  Well I didn’t “HURT’ that person.  But you didn’t love them either. (Good Samaritan).  The rejection of others offends God as much as it is offends him for adultery or murder. 


***JAMES 2.12-13 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.


Looking Past the Filth- The Gospel

James commends us to do more than just SILENTLY not judge—he commends us to speak to act in line with the gospel. It is easy and natural for us to assess people within minutes, even seconds, declaring them as acceptable or not acceptable.  We are to live aspire to live like Jesus.  Matthew 22.16 16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.  We are not to be swayed by appearances, but to draw out the God-given beauty in everyone.  Just as God looked beyond all of our dirt, our quirks, our mistakes, our idiosyncrasies, and annoyances, to show us grace, so we are to do that we everyone we interact with. It is only by the grace of God that we show grace to anyone because it takes a new heart to even THINK that way and NEW EYES to see beyond appearances—to draw out, identify, and appreciate the IMAGE of GOD in everyone.



Luke 9.51-55  51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. 53 But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 And they went on to another village.



John 4.27  27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.



Mark 21.41-44 41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”  



Luke 19.1-10 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small of stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”


v. 13 Mercy triumphs over judgment.

When Jesus is called a friend of sinners, how quickly we forget that we are the sinners he is talking about.  We judge ourselves as worthy and others as not.  I pray that our community will be a gospel community, one that truly lives out the same mercy that God has shown us.  Where we no longer fear being rejected because we’re surrounded by people who truly believe the gospel; where we view ourselves as broken, but part of a larger mosaic that God is building, each with its’ own shape, size, and color.  You type A, B, C,D, educated, uneducated, tall, short, big, small, rich, poor, artistic, organized…God’s community is diverse.  As part of this body, you have something that no one else has—you are a part of the body that, by your silence—makes us less.  And to those who think we don’t need any other parts (except the ones shaped like you), in the end, will not be judged by the work of Christ (2.13), but by your own works.  And they will be found guilty.  Under the Law of Christ, our motivation for loving others IS NOT IN THE PERSON WE’RE LOVING, but in the mercy which he showed undeserving sinners. 

More in James | Retro-Faith

January 17, 2010

James 5.19-20: Wandering and Finding

January 10, 2010

James 5.13-18 Praying and Healing

January 3, 2010

James 5.12 Oaths and Vows