James 2:2-4: “For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. 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, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?
One day a rich man and a poor man came in at the same time. In those days, “poor” did not mean “short of ready cash.” It described those in desperate financial condition, those with nothing but the clothes on their backs. In this case, the clothes on the poor man’s back were in bad shape, and probably had the smell of tears, sweat, and despair.
Presumably both were strangers, for there seems to have been no knowledge of either man’s character. All judgment was strictly made on the basis of outward appearance. To the church described in James 2, “cash” was more important than “character.”
I don’t know why that poor man came. Maybe he came to find refuge. It was hard out in the world, so maybe he came to find help and concern. If that was the case, he must have been disappointed! Instead of a rescue station for the lost, he found a haven for the dignified hypocrites. If he came seeking salvation, he probably never came back again.
To “show favoritism” literally means to accept someone on the basis of his face, that is, on the basis of superficial, outward appearance. In John 7:24, Jesus said, “Stop judging by mere appearances…” This type of prejudice and partiality is contrary to everything Jesus was, everything Jesus taught, and everything Jesus stood for.
James is saying to us that we need to look at people through the eyes of Jesus. If a person is a Christian, he is our brother and worthy of family consideration. If a person is not a Christian, he is stricken with the cancer of sin and should receive our most heartfelt kindness and concern. As far as God is concerned, if we show favoritism, we are really nothing more than “A bunch of hypocrites!”
To make superficial judgments about others with cutting words, ugly jokes, and hurtful discrimination, colored by our prejudices, is evil. It is evil because it destroys brotherhood. It is evil because it nullifies our Christian example. It is evil because it hinders our evangelistic outreach. It is evil because it is contrary to the faith we have in Jesus!
Acts 10:34-35: “…God shows no favoritism. In every nation He accepts those who fear Him and do what is right.”