Devotional Thoughts for Today
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
When I was serving as an intern in E. Asia after college, I was asked to meet up with some brothers at the church and spend time with them. There were these two guys (“Matt” and “Luke”) who were always together—
they were the same height, around the same age, and worked together as coworkers doing similar jobs—so I lumped them together in my mind. However, their differences quickly became apparent as I got to know them. Matt had been at the church for a few years and had gotten very plugged in. He helped lead worship, had a very passionate personality, and seemed to just mesh well with what I thought a good leader should be in a church.
Whereas Matt was warm in personality and demeanor, his friend Luke was noticeably cooler in the way he processed and communicated. So, without much thought, I dismissed him as a typical intellectual, analytical East Asian guy, and started spending more time with Matt in whom I saw potential. Not long after that, the church went through some transition. Matt left, while Luke stayed. Today, Luke serves as one of the staff members at that church—certainly not what I was expecting when I first met him. Looking back, I’m struck at how quick and easy it was for me to play favorites, and how badly I was proven wrong.
In his letter to the scattered believers, James warns them against this sin of favoritism and partiality. For these people who were forced to start over in new towns and cities, it would have been common sense for them to focus their attention on people who had means, resources, and connections. In a society where upward mobility was already uncommon, James’ audience would have simply been trying to get their best shot at making a living. However, James calls out this behavior as discrimination and judgment, rooted in evil thoughts and ungodly standards.
In today’s context, we may not be so quick to discriminate based on someone’s wealth. But our partiality might show up in other areas, such as cultural background (do we perceive entire groups as being “rude”?), life stage (are people dismissed as immature or out of touch based on their age relative to yours?), politics, personality, academic/career experience, etc. We can end up having all sorts of standards to judge people worthy or unworthy of our time, resources, and efforts; but God has chosen to provide redemption, freedom, and grace to all of us who are unworthy by His ultimate standard.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for the mercies You have shown me. I know I’m ultimately unworthy to know You and be known by You, but it’s because of Your grace and mercy that I meet your standard of righteousness. Help me to live in Your grace, so that I can live it out to others.
Bible Reading for Today: 1 Corinthians 8
Lunch Break Study
Read Matthew 7:1-2, 15-20 (NIV): “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
Questions to Consider
- What does Jesus say about judgment in verses 1-2?
- What does Jesus say about judgment in verses 15-20?
- How do we reconcile these two statements?
- Jesus warns against judgment, and says that the standard we use to judge others will be used to judge us.
- People are to be recognized and judged as false prophets by the outward fruit that they bear; bad trees bear bad fruit.
- In order to assess the fruit of one’s life, there needs to be some form of examination and judgment. However, in that process we are to remember the love, grace, and forgiveness extended to us by God, and bring that same heart into our own judgment.
Who are the people we tend to favor at school, at work, at home, etc.? Who are the people around us we tend to dismiss? Ask the Holy Spirit to bring people to mind – who are you thinking about? Spend some time asking God for a heart of love, humility, and grace toward them.