The Culture of the Church and Partiality: James 2

In the Church, we reflexively know that “partiality” is a bad thing; it’s unfair bias favoring one person or group over another. That brings us to James 2.

I’ve tended to read James 2:1-4 as a warning about favoring people with money in church, but maybe I’ve been too simplistic. Now in reading this, I also hear echoes of Peter in Acts 10:34-35:

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. …”

These writings suggest to me that from the beginning of the church, God was very concerned about making sure we didn’t stumble over man-made distinctions such as class and nation of origin.

In this verse, the demonstration of partiality is pronounced and obvious: A poor person walks into the church and gets treated badly. But what about today’s American churches, sometimes physically situated so far from where “different” people live that none would likely wander in? Is that also a show of partiality? Again, here’s the text:

My brothers, don’t hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ of glory with partiality. 2 For if a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, comes into your synagogue,[a] and a poor man in filthy clothing also comes in, 3 and you pay special attention to him who wears the fine clothing and say, “Sit here in a good place;” and you tell the poor man, “Stand there,” or “Sit by my footstool” 4 haven’t you shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?

What happens if we in our churches become partial to our way of life and point of view?

Share Cross Cultural