The Inconsistencies of Prejudice (Jam. 2:1-13)
Prejudice is ugly anywhere. It is especially hideous in the church. We are supposed to be the light. We are supposed to be showing the world that the church is different. In our text, James points out four glaring inconsistencies with prejudice.
Prejudice is Inconsistent with the Faith: “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?” (Jam. 2:1-4). The faith of our Lord Jesus Christ refers to the faith of which He is the author and the finisher (Heb. 12:2). It refers to the one faith that we must endeavor to keep in order to be united (Eph. 4:1-6). It is the gospel. As you know, the gospel is for all men (Tit. 2:11). It is for all nations (Mt. 28:18-20). It is for every creature (Mk. 16:15-16). It is for the Jew and the Greek (Rom. 1:16-17). Therefore, prejudice is inconsistent with the gospel. Prejudice excludes those who are included in the gospel. Telling the poor man to stand or to sit under someone’s feet was a violation of the Golden Rule that Jesus gave in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 7:12). It was also a violation of what Jesus taught in the sermon about judging (Mt. 7:1-5). Prejudice is unrighteous judgment (John 7:24). The Greek word translated as respect of persons means to receive face. It is to judge by appearance.
Prejudice is Inconsistent with the Father: “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?” (Jam. 2:5). Repeatedly, the Bible emphasizes that there is no respect of persons with God (Acts 10:34-35; Rom. 2:11). God accepts all who fear Him and work righteousness. He allows all who love Him to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom. It doesn’t matter if they are Jew or Gentile, rich or poor. Although, the poor tend to love and obey Him more readily than the rich (Mk. 12:37; 1 Cor. 1:26). In the illustration that James used in the opening verses of the chapter, the brethren were prejudiced against the poor man that God loved. Their treatment of the poor man was inconsistent with how the Father thought of him and treated him (1 Tim. 2:3-4). We should strive to be like our Father in how we treat people (Mt. 5:43-48).
Prejudice is Inconsistent with the Facts: “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?” (Jam. 2:6-7). The book of James is not called the Gospel of Common Sense for nothing. James pointed out that it was the rich and not the poor who oppressed them and spoke against them as Christians. It made no sense that they would show favoritism to them. Evidently, they were courting the favor of the rich hoping for something in return. Their actions were both selfish and senseless. Since the poor had nothing to offer them, they disregarded and dishonored them. Their actions were not only inconsistent with the faith and the Father, they were inconsistent with the facts.
Prejudice is Inconsistent with the Future: “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. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (Jam. 2:8-13). James’ brethren, like all men, were headed to the judgment (Heb. 9:27; 2 Cor. 5:10). No doubt, when James’ brethren got to the Judgment, they would need and want mercy. Yet, they were not showing mercy. They were not loving their poor neighbor as they loved themselves. They were not showing pity or mercy to the poor. They were breaking the law and would be condemned accordingly. Their prejudice was inconsistent with the future.
The prejudice of these brethren was inconsistent with the faith, the Father, the facts, and the future. Let’s guard ourselves against these same inconsistencies.
Three Marks of True Religion
“If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (Jam. 1:26-27). James concluded his discussion of hearing and doing with a discussion of true religion (Jam. 1:20-25). James’ point was simple - true religion hears and does. True religion is not convincing ourselves or others that we are religious. Both can be, and often are, deceived. The Pharisees are a good example of this dual-deception (Mt. 23:27-36). True religion is showing that we are religious by hearing and doing. In the final two verses of the first chapter, James gives three marks of true religion.
Conversation - True Religion Bridles The Tongue
The first mark of true religion is conversation (Jam. 1:26). For good or bad, our speech often gives us away (Mt. 26:73; Judg. 12:6). It reveals what is within our hearts (Mt. 12:33-37). Angry words, unkind words, untrue words, and impure words are an indicator of heart problems. They are an indicator that our heart hasn’t been cleansed or changed. The man who thinks that his religion is true, but doesn’t control his tongue, is just deceiving himself. His religion will profit him nothing. It is empty. A religion that doesn’t control the tongue can’t possibly save the soul. If our religion is true, it will be revealed in our speech. It will be revealed by a tongue under control (Jam. 3:1-12; cf. Psa. 34:13; Eph. 4:29; Col. 4:6).
Consideration - True Religion Visits Orphans And Widows
The second mark of true religion is consideration (Jam. 1:27). How we care for the widows, the fatherless, and the poor are indicators of the genuineness of our faith (Jam. 2). To visit the fatherless and the widows is more than a social call. It is seeing their need and supplying it (Lk. 1:68). It is more than words. It is not just saying, “Be warmed and filled,” it is giving them the things that they need (Jam. 2:16). It is not just supplying their needs once, but again and again, if necessary. The Greek word translated as visit is present tense. Present tense in the Greek denotes ongoing action. The man who thinks that he is religious but doesn’t care for those in need is deceiving himself. The religion that doesn’t provide for others cannot possibly save the soul. It is empty. It profits nothing (Jam. 2:14-17). If our religion is true, pure and undefiled before God and the Father, it will care for widows and orphans as the Father does (Psa. 68:4-5; 146:9; Isa. 1:16-17; Mk. 14:7).
Consecration - True Religion Keeps Itself Unspotted From The World
The third mark of true religion is consecration (Jam. 1:27). If our religion is true, then it will be revealed by our relationship to the world. True religion involves separation (2 Cor. 6:17-18) and transformation from the world (Rom. 12:2). In the fourth chapter, James strongly rebuked his brethren for their involvement with the world (Jam. 4:4; cf. Mt. 6:24). They needed to cleanse their hands and purify their hearts (Jam. 4:8). The man who thinks that he is religious, but doesn’t keep himself unspotted from the world is deceiving himself. His religion is neither pure nor undefiled. It is empty and it will profit him nothing. Our God is a holy God. If we are His people, then we must be holy (1 Pet. 1:13-16).
Three marks of true religion are conversation, consideration, and consecration. How would your religion fare if judged by these three things? Would it be pure or impure? Would it be full or empty? Would it justify or condemn?
The Devil’s Defeat (Rev. 12)
The twelfth chapter of Revelation details the devil’s defeat (Rev. 12). Let’s swiftly consider four simple reasons why this is a cause for worship.
First, we worship because the devil didn’t devour the Christ child. We read, “And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne. Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days” (Rev. 12:3-6). It is likely that the devil tried in one way and another to stop the Christ child from being born from the time that he first heard about the seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15). Thanks be to God that the devil failed every time, including the attempt through Herod (Mat. 2). Had he been successful any of those times, there would be no reason to worship.
Second, we worship because the devil couldn’t overthrow God. We read, “And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Rev. 12:7-9). The last place one would expect war would be heaven. Yet, it occurred there because of the devil . Thanks be to God that the devil lost. Had the devil been successful in his rebellion, then there would be no reason to worship.
Third, we worship because the devil can be overcome. We read, “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” (Rev. 12:10-11). God’s forces in heaven defeated the devil and God’s forces on earth can do the same through the blood of Christ and the word of God. Thanks be to God that He has not left us defenseless against the devil. Let’s worship God for the mighty weapons that He has given us (2 Cor. 10:3-4).
Fourth, we worship because the devil is running out of time. We read, “Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time” (Rev. 12:12). The devil knows that Jesus is coming back. Furthermore, he knows that when Jesus comes that his deceiving days are done. Thanks be to God that the devil’s days are running out. Let’s hold out a little while longer and worship God for setting a limit to Satan’s work.
As we get ready to worship this week, let’s think of the devil’s defeat. I believe that you will agree that this is a cause for rejoicing.
The Right Way to React to the Word of Righteousness (Jam. 1:21-25) – Part 2
In the first installment of this study, we saw the first two reactions that we are supposed to have to the word of righteousness. We are to remove wickedness with diligence and receive the word with meekness. In this second and final installment, we will see the third reaction that we are supposed to have.
Respond With Obedience
Once we have received the word with meekness, we are to respond to it with obedience. James wrote, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (Jam. 1:22). A doer is a performer. He is one who obeys or fulfills the law. James’ words remind us of words that his older brother Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. We read, “Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven....Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (Mt. 7:24-27). Hearing is not enough. Calling Jesus Lord is not enough. We must obey. We must do the will of the Father. James’ words also remind us of the words that God spoke to Ezekiel: “As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, ‘Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the LORD.’ So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them. And when this comes to pass—surely it will come—then they will know that a prophet has been among them” (Ezek. 33:30-33). Those of Ezekiel’s day were talking him up. They were inviting their neighbors to come and hear the eloquent prophet. They came as God’s people. They sat as God’s people. They listened as God’s people. They showed love like God’s people. However, they didn’t obey as God’s people. They were hearers only. Sadly, many today are satisfied being hearers only. They think that hearing is enough. However, James says that they are deceiving themselves. The word translated as deceiving means to cheat by false reckoning and reasoning. When we hear but don’t do, we cheat ourselves out of blessings. Blessings follow doing, not hearing. Within the context, James wrote, “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (Jam. 1:25). It is the diligent doer and not the haphazard hearer that is blessed. Doing what we hear makes it a part of our lives in a way that hearing alone never can. That is why James refers to those who hear only as “forgetful hearers.” He compares them to a man looking into a mirror. The man looks in the mirror and sees changes that need to be made but goes away without making them. Perhaps, he has intentions of making changes later, but he forgets.
James prescribed three reactions to the word of righteousness. First, we are to remove the wickedness with diligence. Second, we are to receive the word with meekness. Third, and finally, we are to respond to the word with obedience.
The Right Way to React to the Word of Righteousness (Jam. 1:21-25) – Part 1
People react to the word of God in many different ways. Some stop their ears to keep from hearing it (Mat. 13:15-16; Acts 7:54-57). Others receive it great eagerness (Acts 2:41; 17:11). Of course, the way that we react to the word of God has eternal implications. It will determine where we spend eternity. It is for this reason that James wrote to help his brethren to react correctly. We read, “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (Jam. 1:21-25). In these verses James instructed his brethren to remove sin with diligence, to receive Scripture with meekness, and to respond with obedience.
Remove With Diligence: James instructed his brethren to “lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness” (Jam. 1:21). The Greek word translated as lay aside means to put off or to put away. Repeatedly, the New Testament so instructs the Christian. For example, Paul instructed the saints at Colosse to put off anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language, and lying because they were characteristics of the old man (Col. 3:8-9; cf. Eph. 4:31; Rom. 13:12). These things remind us of the instructions that James just gave within the context (Jam. 1:19-20) for his brethren to be slow to speak (blasphemy, filthy language, lying) and to be slow to wrath (anger, wrath, malice). Please note that James instructed them to lay aside “all filthiness. “ A few verses later, he will tell to keep themselves “unspotted” from the world (Jam. 1:27). We live in a filthy world. It is easy to get dirty (Isa. 6:5; 2 Pet. 2:7). We must avoid all contamination. Paul’s words to the Corinthians bear a striking resemblance to James’ words. He wrote, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1; cf. Eph. 5:3-6).
In addition to laying aside all filthiness, James instructed his brethren to lay aside the “overflow of wickedness. “. Did this mean that they could keep wickedness as long as it stayed within certain bounds? Were they only to lay aside excessive wickedness? Absolutely, not! They were to get rid of all wickedness just like they were to get rid of all filthiness. The Greek word translated as overflow refers to “residue” or “remains.“ When a person becomes a Christian, their sins are washed away. However, it will likely take some time for them to rid themselves of all of the residue of their former life. They will have to struggle against thinking, speaking, dressing, and acting as they did before their conversion. Old habits must be replaced with new ones, and that takes time. By speaking of the overflow of wickedness James may also have simply been noting the excessive nature of wickedness (Lk. 15:13). Wickedness is excessive (Lk. 15:13; Eph. 5:18; 1 Pet. 4:3-4).
Receive With Meekness: Having instructed his brethren to remove the wickedness, James now instructed them to “receive with meekness the implanted word” (Jam. 1:21). The Greek word translated as receive means to take with the hand, to receive favorably, to give ear, to get, to learn (Prov. 4:5, 7; 16:16). I love what Cornelius said to Peter when he came to tell him words whereby he and his house could be saved. He declared: “Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God” (Acts 10:33). First, please note that he sent immediately for Peter. He did not wait for a convenient season (Acts 24:25). He made time. Second, he gathered his whole household together. He wanted them all to hear the message of salvation. Third, they were there to hear or to give ear. They were not there to argue. They were there to receive the word with readiness and gladness (Acts 2:41; 17:11). Fourth, they wanted to hear all things. They wanted the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). They weren’t interested in a partial plan. Fifth, they wanted to hear what was commanded of God (1 Thess. 2:13). They weren’t interested in Peter’s opinions.
James not only told his brethren to receive the word, he told them how to receive it - with meekness. The Greek word translated as meekness refers to a mildness of disposition and a gentleness of spirit (Psa. 25:9; Isa. 61:1). The Greek word translated as implanted carries within it the concept of planting. When you combine these ideas you have something beautiful. The word of God is a seed that is planted in the heart (Lk. 8:11). The meek heart is the soft heart. It is rich, bottom soil. It will receive the seed and bring forth fruit (Lk. 8:15).
James not only told his brethren how to receive it (with meekness), but also why to receive it (salvation). The implanted word is able to save our souls (Acts 13:36; Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 15:1-2; Eph. 1:13; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; Heb.2:3). The Greek word translated as able refers to that which is powerful (Heb. 4:12; Rom. 1:16). It is able to save the most valuable part of us - the part of us that is going to live somewhere forever (Mat. 16:26). The Greek word translated as saved means to rescue from danger . Of course, the danger is eternal destruction (2 Thess. 1:7-9). In addition to saving us initially, the word has the power to keep us safe and sound (Jude 24; 2 Pet. 1:9-10). This is a part of the meaning of the Greek word translated as save.