How would you answer this question, “Who is your favorite church visitor?” We read in James 2 of a hypothetical situation: two men come into the church – one is rich and possibly a dignitary, while the other is poor and dressed in filthy clothes. The rich man is shown special attention and a good seat. In contrast, the poor man is abruptly told to “stand thou there.”
The question found in verse four is paramount to understanding the real problem. “Are ye not then partial . . . and become judges of evil thoughts?” Partiality, or favoritism, is terribly wrong. Those acting in this way become judges. The word translated “partial” is built on the same root as the word for judges. In so judging between men, the readers had become unjust judges.
The commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself is not described as “the royal law” simply because of its lofty character. The one who keeps this supreme law is said to “do well.” The right course of action is to show favor to everyone, whether rich or poor. Love overlooks such superficial distinctions as wealth and quality of clothing and shows kindness to each person equally. So, let’s treat everyone as our absolute favorite visitor!
Written by Mike Williquette, Business Director of Baptist World Mission