But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. James 2, verse 9.
Forgive me because I messed up. I skipped a verse. I moved ahead a verse, preferring it to this one. Maybe I was committing a subtle sin of favoritism, of omission. That’s not a trite line: it’s where we’re going today.
You see, you and I show favoritism in everything we do. James reminds us of that fact. I like skim milk instead of 2%; I prefer green to red; “Lord of the Rings” over “Saw” movies. Perhaps there’s no harm in those choices, but what about I prefer black people to white, or I love me some Christians but can’t stand those Muslims. Go ahead: it’s ok to pick the good ball players first; everyone always gets stuck with the lousy players when there aren’t many left to choose. How does that favoritism sound now?
Personally, I think it sounds typical. I’ve done it. You have too. In verse 8, James reminds us to love everyone, and then, in the verse after this one, he reminds us that one sin means we’re thick with sin and guilty of breaking all of God’s law. It’s as if we are staring at a crystal bowl of perfectly still water, then we drop a single pin-point bit of dye into it that stains the whole thing.
God won’t be stained. He’s holy. He can’t be. He won’t allow it because, without that holiness, life has no source, no meaning, and no love.
That’s not good enough for me, though. I’m thick with the idea that I know better. Just ask me: I’ll tell you. Give me long enough and I’ll plan out your day, equip you to do it, tell you how to get it done, and then send you on your way. I’ll hammer you if you don’t do what I want, too. It’s what I do for a living and, if you ask my wife, it’s what I do at home; terrible gift and flaw. Just ask me: I’ll tell you that too. I know better, and I know better than God, right?
Guilty. Guilty, stained, and damned. I chose me over God.
That’s just not good enough for the Lord. In the same chapter where Jesus uses James to tell us to love everyone, He also says we’re damned if we choose favorites that push Him out of the way. James warns us about showing favoritism because it’s not just scorning people who Jesus loves: it’s scorning Jesus. It’s choosing something else over Him. And He is righteously jealous, wanting to be our only choice. He knows that everything else in life is second best and He only wants the best for us. It isn’t cocky arrogance: it’s unending love.
Lord, You are my favorite. You are my only choice. Show me the errors of my ways and humble me when I become proud.
When have you played favorites?
What good resulted from that?
How does it make you feel to walk in the shoes of the ‘un-favored?’