Deadly Danger of Favoritism

The book “Chicken Soup for the Soul” records the story of Bill. Bill was a college student dressed like a hippie. He didn’t look like the other members of the middle-class church he visited one day. There was no place to sit, so Bill sat down on the carpet near the pulpit. An elderly deacon stood up and made his way to the young man. Everyone in the church expected him to take care of the situation by asking this hippie to leave. They were surprised by the elderly deacon drop his cane and plop down on the floor beside Bill and worship alongside him.

Let’s face it: we feel most comfortable with people who look like us, think like us and act like us. But when that influences our relationships in the church, we have a problem.
James is writing to Christians who have been dispersed across the known world because of persecution that has broken out in Jerusalem against those who believe in Jesus. They are living as foreigners in cities and countries far from their native land. It is difficult, they have lost everything, they are not well accepted.

Our text today is found in James 2:1-13. In this letter James has given what John MacArthur called, “Tests of living faith.” Is your faith a living faith or a dead faith? James is about to deal specifically with that issue in the second half of chapter two. Let’s review the tests James has already outlined for determining if our faith is real:

  • How we respond to trials (1:3-12)
  • How we respond to temptation (1:13-18)
  • How we respond to the Word of God (1:19-27)
  • How we respond to others (2:1-13)

In this portion of the letter, James is showing Christians that genuine faith in Jesus Christ and favoritism (or partiality) are incompatible! They do not and cannot go together! Favoritism in the church is not only discourteous and disrespectful, it is sin!

Here is the simple truth: God is impartial. We are not. Christians are supposed to be.

Partiality is unfair bias in favor of one thing or person compared with another, to show favoritism.

Impartiality is one of the distinguishing characteristics of God’s nature, one of His attributes (that makes Him who He is.)

As a member of the human race we tend to rank people based upon:

  • Ethnicity – culture, language, features or skin color.
  • Education – intelligence, amount of academic training.
  • Economics – the car they drive or the neighborhood or house they live in, the clothes & jewelry they wear. A well-dressed woman will get more attention than other women in a public setting.

Yet none of these things matter to God!

  • There is no partiality in God: Deut 10:17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe.
  • No partiality against the poor in their dispute: Deut. 1:17 You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid in any man’s presence, for the judgment is God’s.
  • No partiality for the poor in their dispute: Ex. 23:3 You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute.
  • No partiality in dealing with employees: Eph. 6:9 And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
  • No partiality in church discipline: 1 Tim. 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.

Guarding against favoritism in the church is especially challenging when there are many cultures in the church.

Cross-Cultural Challenges:

  • Different Value Systems – different is not necessarily wrong. Different is different. What we know and have been expose to always seems best and most appropriate to us.
  • Different Life Experiences – I can’t expect to know how to live and survive in the bush if I’ve never been exposed to that life. Bushmen will easily mock me, consider themselves better than me.
  • Different Education Opportunities – Many have an education that I never had the opportunity for. You know stuff about running business, farming, manufacturing or mining because of your educational training and life experiences.

We must avoid the deadly danger of favoritism in the church:


Because we don’t shed wrong world-views the moment we get saved (1)

These were genuine christians – “brothers” (1,5). They held tightly to faith in Jesus Christ, yet they needed this instruction regarding showing partiality in the church. This attitude of favoritism was so much a part of their culture that it was assumed.  Most Christians were Jewish and poor – (1:1 – Dispersion). Because of persecution many had lost all they owned and were now displaced persons in a foreign country.

Because we naturally admire people of wealth and importance (2-3)

How do we determine wealthy and poor – in simple terms: Those who have more than me are rich, those who have less than me are poor. We admire their achievements or their possessions. We often cater to the rich because we hope to get something out of them. For example.   The church has a need, but instead of asking God what we can do to help with that need, we look to someone else in the church with the idea they can give to meet the need because they have more money than we do.

We are tempted to avoid the poor because they embarrass us. They are given less respect. Sit on the floor. Jesus did not do this, and He does not approve of it!

Wealth is not a sin if submitted to the Lord! Praise the Lord for wealthy believers who are wholeheartedly committed to the gospel! There is also no sin in being poor, as long as the person is not poor because of squandering what God has given to him/her.

Because we fail to see the evil of such response in light of their equality before God. (4)

Distinctions in this way are not to be made among fellow Christians! When we treat others this we make ourselves judges of the value and worth of another Christian – this is evil! This is wrong thinking!  Paul warns them against this common practice! Why?

  • Favoritism undermines the gospel
  • Favoritism undermines the testimony of Christ’s followers.
  • Favoritism undermines the character of God.


Because of the shared riches we have in Christ (5)

Saved poor are rich (1Co.1:26-30) Equal in faith because they are saved by the same sacrifice through Christ. They are equal in status  as sons and daughters of God (Gal.3:26-29).  They are equal in benefits and share a future inheritance in heaven. Saved poor are equal to the saved rich, there are no differences.

There are not many races – just one race – the human race. We are all “one blood.” (Acts 17:26) There are not ethnic churches – Bemba church, Afrikaans Church, White church, there is one church – Christ’s Church!

Our point of relationship is not ethnic, cultural, or economic – our relationship is in Christ alone! A church that does not treat all of God’s children with the same respect and welcome is an unbiblical church! All Christians are welcome to join in heart fellowship here at Kitwe Church: Male/Female, Young/old, Black/Brown/White, Rich/Poor, African/Asian/European/Latino/Everyone

Because of the wicked actions of the unsaved (6-7)

The wicked are those who oppress the poor in their arrogance (6). They exact from the poor what little they have – greed. They don’t pay fair wages or don’t pay when it is due. “Lawless Oceans” a recent documentary on National Geographic channel exposed the commercial fishing industry in the South Pacific. Workers labor for $200 per month working 7 days a week for 30-40 days, they are then are charged $95 for board and food on the ship
The wicked are the very ones who blaspheme the name of your Heavenly Father (7)!  How then can you sin against your brother by giving preferential treatment to these wealthy people in the church?


Because of the Royal Law (8).

The law was summarized by Jesus in answer to the lawyer’s question.  Jesus said that the greatest command is to “love the Lord your God with all…” and the second greatest commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  This second command is referred to by James as the “royal law.”

You may be asking – who is my neighbor? That questions was asked many years ago by a religious man. Jesus told the inquirer a story about a Samaritan who met the need of a wounded Jewish stranger.  Jesus then asked, who was the neighbor to the one that fell among thieves? The answer, the one who showed him compassion.  Jesus affirmed that answer with the words, “go and do likewise.”  Go and be a neighbor to others in need! (Lk. 10:29-37)

Because disobedience to the law is sin (9-11)

If you obey all the laws except you disobey one of them, you are a lawbreaker and guilty as such. You don’t commit adultery, but you do murder someone you are guilty of breaking the law!  If you do not “love your neighbor as yourself” by showing favoritism you are breaking the Royal Law of God and committing sin (9a). Those who break the law will be convicted by the law (9b).

Because we all need mercy (12-13)

Speak to others and act toward others in a way that aligns with the reality of our shared relationship in Christ! We have been set free through Christ! You reap what you sow – when we are judged, we will not be shown mercy if we don’t show mercy to others. We all need a little mercy!

We all need mercy, so show the person who is different than you the acceptance, love and respect. Treat all Christians as equal recipients of God’s gracious gifts! Look at everyone through the eyes of Christ. Christ is the link between us and others and that link is love! The basis of my relationship with you is Christ and Christ alone! It is his person and work that gives me the relationship with you. No other basis for a relationship will work!

Listen to the sermon here: