The Sin of Favoritism

Visiting preacher Dr. Ron Norman speaks on James 2:1-13, the third in our series of sermons this fall from the Book of James under the theme “Wisdom for Spiritual Maturity”.

[sermon text is found below the image]



1.      The famous Indian leader, Mahatma Gandhi, considered becoming a Christian.

a.     He read the Gospels - was moved.

b.    Perhaps Christianity offered a solution to the caste system that plagued the people of India.

2.     So, one Sunday, he went to a local church.

a.     Decided to see the pastor - - - salvation.

b.    But the ushers refused to give him a seat.

c.     Told him to go - worship with his own people.

d.    Left and never went back If Christians have caste differences also,” he said, “I might as well remain a Hindu”.

3.     That tragic story illustrates the sin that James writes about in our text.

a.     His focus is on the sin of showing favoritism to the rich and despising the poor, but his words apply to all types of prejudice.

b.    This was a terrible sin that plagued the early church in James’ day.

c.     But what about the church today?

4.    The sin of favoritism has persisted in perhaps subtle ways in evangelical churches as well.

a.     Church Growth movement (30 years ago) – the Homogenous principle – “Birds of a feather, flock together.”

b.   So, with that introduction, let’s take a closer look at the text of James 2:1-13 this morning.


(1.)           (v.1) ADMONITION -

a.) James is the half-brother of Jesus but calls Him “the Lord of glory.”  Reminds those with a Jewish background of the Shekinah glory, which was on display as the Israelites were led in the desert.

b.) John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

c.)  So, we are who are saved by this glorious Lord Jesus, are admonished to “show no favoritism.”

d.) Maybe we need to define some terms (pretty similar).

Favoritism is giving unfair preferential treatment to one person or group at the expense of another.

Discrimination is the practice of treating one person or group of people less fairly than other people or groups.

Prejudice comes from the words, pre-judge and refers to discriminating against people solely because of outward appearance or skin color.

Racism is a belief or practice that distinguishes or values one race over other races.

e.) Simply put, to show favoritism is incompatible with our faith!

a.     1 Peter 1:17 God is the ultimate umpire because He is the “Father who judges impartially (that is without favoritism).” As ones who claim His name, He expects us to treat people fairly.

b.    Warren Wiersbe nails it when he says: “The way we behave toward people indicates what we really believe about God.”

c.     If you want God’s favor, don’t treat people with favoritism.

(2.)         (v.2-4) ILLUSTRATION. James then gives a vivid illustration.

a.     The text literally reads, “gold-fingered and brilliantly clothed.”  Each finger had a ring and his clothing was often bright and flashy, sometimes with silver sewn into the fabric so it glistened in the sunlight.

b.    If someone came in here wearing this, we would all take notice.

i.      J. Vernon McGee liked to say, “Some go to church to close their eyes, and others go to eye the clothes.”

ii.      In contrast, how would you feel and what would you notice if a poor person came in the doors wearing the only set of clothes he owns?

c.     James points out that we’re prone to show favoritism to the man sporting some bling.

i.      Verse 3 uses the phrase, “if you show special attention”….

ii.      The flashy guy gets the best seat (which in our case would be where?) = the softer seats in the middle?); the filthy guy gets the floor.

iii.      One reason they favored the rich man is they thought he could increase their offerings or would do something special for them.

d.    Let’s face it....We tend to judge the better off as better. We’re prone to give preference to those who make us look good or can do something good for us.

i.      Proverbs 14:20: “The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends.”  

ii.      Since everybody matters to Jesus, everyone should matter to us.

(3.)         (v.5-11) EXPLANATION.

a.     Beginning in v.5 James asks four lively questions to get them/us to see the contradictions that resides within them. Each question expects a ‘YES’ answer.

“Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he has promised to those who love him?” Yes.

Ø  Though it is easy for man to be partial to the rich, God isn’t partial to them.

Ø  In fact, since riches are an obstacle to the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24), there is a sense in which God specially blesses the poor of this world.

Ø  They are chosen… to be rich in faith because the poor of this world simply have more opportunities to trust God.

Ø  Therefore, they may be far richer in faith than the rich man. 

Ø  The poor are chosen in the sense that the poor more readily respond to God in faith, having fewer obstacles to the kingdom.

• “Are not the rich the ones who are exploiting you?” Yes.

Ø  James reminded his readers that the rich often sin against them.

Ø  This is often because the love of money is the root of every kind of evil (1 Timothy 6:10).

• “And they not the ones who are dragging you into court?” Yes.

Ø  History shows that the rich can indeed oppress the poor.

• “Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of Him to whom you belong?”  Yes.

Ø  If he’s referring to the rich who are Christians, then by the way they act, they cause others to slander Christ’s name.

Ø  But if he’s referring to rich unbelievers the rich men of those times being generally great enemies to Christianity.

b.    James now turns to Scripture as the standard. (v.8)

• James anticipated that some of his readers might defend their partiality to the rich as simply loving the rich man as their neighbor in obedience to the law.

> The problem isn’t that one is nice to the rich. The problem is that one does show favoritism to the rich and is not nice to the poor man!

> So, you can’t excuse your favoritism by saying, “I’m just fulfilling the command to love my neighbor as myself.”

* Our God is a great King, and His law is a royal law.

> Jesus put special emphasis on this command (Matthew 22:36-40) from the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:18).

> James is reminding us that the poor man is just as much our neighbor as the rich man is.

c. Don’t miss how repugnant favoritism is to the Almighty.

i.      In verses 9-10, favoritism is a perversion of justice and is referred to as “SIN”!

ii.      Racism/Prejudice/Discrimination/ Favoritism are not just social problems in our world; they are sin problems within.

(4.)         (v.12-13) APPLICATION.

a.     Watch your words and adjust your actions. Remember judgers will be judged. 

i.      We’re to speak and act.

ii.      We need to watch what we say and what we do because we’ll be judged accordingly.

iii.      Jesus said it like this in Matthew 7:2: For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”

b.    Make mercy your message. (v 13b).

i.      Mercy is the aspect of God’s character that causes Him to minister to the miserable…to feel something deeply.

ii.      Jesus was the ultimate model of ministering with mercy while not giving preference to people.

1.      He recruited Matthew, a despised tax collector….

2.     He gave grace to the woman caught in adultery.

3.     He celebrated the little the widow gave, while allowing the rich young ruler to walk away when he wouldn’t turn his love of money.

4.    He held up the Good Samaritan, a hated half-breed as the hero in a story about compassionate neighboring.

CONCLUSION:  Here’s the bottom line: If you want God’s favor, don’t treat people with favoritism. So, what can we do if we know we often show favoritism?

1. Repent of prejudicial attitudes, words and actions. Let’s own our pride, our partiality and our favoritism. Confess it and turn from it. No more. No longer. Not here.

2. Listen and love. Let’s pray and go out of our way to connect with someone who looks different from us.

3. Let’s allow the glorious Lord to help FPBC to become more ethnically and racially diverse and yet harmonious and united.

v. Mercy must be our message.