In James 2, James directs his attention to a specific audience, Jewish converts to Christianity. At that time, there were only two chief classes in society. The upper class used their power to oppress the lower class, who lived hand-to-mouth. The upper class considered the lives of the lower class not worth living.
Most gathering of wealth was obtained by abuse and so the honorable wealthy were known through their charity. But there was a central problem going on in the early church. Favoritism. James put the Body in a position where they had to face their favoritism head-on.
Upper and Lower Class Divided
Before we point fingers, we must realize that in society the upper and lower class didn’t mingle. As the early church had fellowship within their homes in small gatherings, it would be a new practice to fellowship and socialize with the lower class in such intimate settings. The bigger challenge was this: to consider the lower class on level status. This was something the upper class were going to have to get their head around.
Today, we can relate to the sin of favoritism. We transgress by belonging to exclusive circles, classifying people by their economic status, being hard hearted to the needy, comparing ourselves with others, manipulating others to achieve some false superiority, these are all sins. This truth that James was telling the church in the 1st Century is still true for us today.
James was a mouthpiece sounding out the heart of God.
The wealthy were judging the poor. In the Greek, the word “judges” is better translated as “distinguishes”. The people made themselves judges, distinguishing that God had looked upon the poor with disfavor, signifying they could not have salvation. The wealthy showed partiality, thinking God was.
This theology simply was incorrect. James set them straight, assuring them that wealth was not a sign of favoritism from God. James elevated the position of the poor. Poor people have always been treated like second-class citizens. To be honest, this is still a challenge for us today.
We need to go back and meditate up the book of James to remember what James taught about the royal law. Love your neighbor. This is the highest law possible regarding human relationships. We break this law all the time! If we consider the needs of all our neighbors, we would defeat any sin of favoritism.
Throughout the book of James, we will observe his tone and constructive criticism escalate from chapter to chapter.
Written by Jori Sams
Jori Sams is a Christian author and freelance writer with nearly 2000 published pieces on the Internet, with over 1500 being published by Yahoo. Her books are published through Writeious Books. When she isn’t writing, you can usually find her following the sun…