James 2:1-13 (NLT)
For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. 3 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, 4 doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives? (James 2:2-4 NLT)
How often have I stopped at an intersection because of a red light and seen a panhandler working the intersection looking for “donations” to his/her cause and gone into “lockdown” mode – locking the car doors and looking straight ahead daring NOT to look them in the eyes? It has happened often. Yet as I read this passage today, that’s the first picture I got. The second picture I got – immediately behind the first – is the same intersection but Firemen working the intersection looking for a donation to his/her cause. In this scenario, I react totally opposite. If I have loose change, I give it to them. I always smile and wave at the fireman, even if I don’t have anything to give.
Why? Exactly this verse. I am judging the person by their exterior. Yes, our culture today and often the intersections have something to do with how “safe” I feel for me and my family, but if I’m honest, it is no different than James 2:2-4.
It’s not just with such drastic differences either. I know myself. It is just as easy for me to show favoritism (a really nice way of saying ‘being prejudice’ or judging) to those ‘of significance.’ For example, given the opportunity to meet Stephen Curtis Chapman or the dude on the 3rd row of the 2nd service at church, guess where my attention is going to be?
Is the fireman any different than the beggar in the eyes of God? Is Stephen Curtis Chapman any better than the guy at church in the eyes of God? Am I any different or any better than any of them in the eyes of God?
Nope. Actually, the answer is a resounding ‘NO!’
It goes on an on. It could just as easily relate to those with whom we have a common interest versus those we don’t; those who are easy to get along with versus those it is a struggle to have conversation with; those who are obnoxious versus those who are fun; boring versus exciting; pretty versus ugly; it really doesn’t matter in God’s eyes.
His eyes – His vision – His perspective is the only one that counts. It’s the only thing that matters. James 2:5-14 go on to make that exact point. We are all sinners. We have all broken His law. We have all fallen short of His glory (Romans 3:23).
Originally, I thought this was unrelated, but it is not. My actions (my deeds) define my faith. If I have no deeds, I have no faith because it is dead. A dead faith is not a faith at all. Faith – true, living, vibrant faith in God – produces actions/deeds that are driven by my faith. I don’t choose the action, I just choose to be obedient to God’s directive. This is the example of Abraham placing Issac on the altar. God directed his actions and because of his faith, he obeyed.
I know people who let their actions drive their faith. It a natural extension of their ‘religion’. Actions do not create faith. Faith isn’t motivated by actions. Faith isn’t driven or created by actions / deeds / “do and don’t” commands. This kind of faith is a Works-Based faith, which the Lord clearly speaks about in Romans 4:1-5 (The Message):
So how do we fit what we know of Abraham, our first father in the faith, into this new way of looking at things? If Abraham, by what he did for God, got God to approve him, he could certainly have taken credit for it. But the story we’re given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story. What we read in Scripture is, “Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own. If you’re a hard worker and do a good job, you deserve your pay; we don’t call your wages a gift. But if you see that the job is too big for you, that it’s something only God can do, and you trust him to do it—you could never do it for yourself no matter how hard and long you worked—well, that trusting-him-to-do-it is what gets you set right with God, by God. Sheer gift.
The deception in that kind of thinking – that kind of ‘religion’ – is that instead of actions being directed BY God, they are directed AT God. Minor words… MAJOR difference!
How I view others is just one “deed” that needs to change.
Dad, today let me see others through Your eyes, Your perspective today. Destroy the preconceived ideas I have about people that color my vision and skew my attitudes towards them. Replace them with your perfect love today. In that perfect love, drive my actions to those things that bring you Glory. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.