Prejudice and Partiality

James 2:1-9 “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.  For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and say to the poor man, ‘You stand there,’ or, ‘Sit here at my footstool,’ have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?  Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?  But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts?  Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?  If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”

“My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.”  Prejudice is a judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge of the facts.  Because of prejudice, one individual is valued more than another.  The prejudice is often because of some physical characteristic that can be observed.  In the world it is common to see prejudice because of race, skin color, hair color, physical height, physical strength, influence, who one’s parents were, national origin, wealth, and other characteristics.  The prejudice leads to treating one individual better than another or, as James describes it, with partiality.

In the passage above, the partiality was shown because of wealth.  The poor man was in filthy clothes perhaps because he did not have other clothes to wear and his only clothes had become filthy.  The rich man displayed his wealth with fine apparel and gold rings.  Today, a rich man might show his wealth with fine apparel and expensive jewelry and with other possessions such as an expensive new car, a fancy cell phone, and a luxurious house that he lives in.  The common prejudice is that if a person is wealthy and successful in life, he is somehow better than the poor man. 

“Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?”  Matthew 19:23-24 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’”  Jesus went on to explain that it is not impossible for a rich man to be saved.  The problem is that the rich man usually trusts in his riches.  He does not need to trust and depend upon God because he has his riches to help him in the problems of life.  The poor man does not have riches to depend upon, so his faith and trust are in God.  It can be observed that there are more poor who are rich in faith and therefore heirs of God’s kingdom.

Prejudice leads to partiality.  One individual is treated differently than the other individual.  In the passage above, the rich man was told to sit in a good place while the poor man was told to stand or sit at the footstool.  We can show partiality in numerous ways.  We can greet and welcome one and not another.  We can give our time to the one we prefer and ignore the one we do not.  We can treat one as righteous and another as unrighteous.  We can share the gospel with one and not with the other.  Our partiality is given because of our prejudice.

God does not show partiality.  He does not see as man sees.  The prophet Samuel was told to go to Bethlehem and anoint the next king of Israel from the sons of Jesse.  Samuel looked over the sons of Jesse and saw the oldest son Eliab.   1 Samuel 16:6-7 “So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him!’  But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’”  We should be glad that the Lord looks on the heart of an individual and not on his outward appearance.  Peter was sent by the Lord to Cornelius, the gentile, to preach the gospel. Acts 10:34-35 “Then Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.  But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.’”  God does not show partiality.   Speaking about God, the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 2:6-11 “Who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds’:  eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness — indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For there is no partiality with God.” Job 34:19 “Yet He is not partial to princes, nor does He regard the rich more than the poor; for they are all the work of His hands.”  God is not prejudiced and does not show partiality.  Neither should you or I. 

“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”  The apostle Paul was giving instructions to Timothy.  1 Timothy 5:21 “I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality.”  My encouragement to you is the same.  That you seek to live without prejudice and do nothing with partiality.