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. 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,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
- James 2:2-4
James shares an example of favoritism and shows what it does to us when we indulge it.
Two men walk into church. The way they’re dressed tells something about their position in society and about their wealth. But the way we treat them tells something about the state of our hearts.
A Christian community should be a place where all are welcome. The quality of your clothing shouldn’t determine the welcome you receive. Just about everyone can agree to this in principle. But it practice it becomes much more difficult.
We find ourselves attracted to people who are like us and to people who are like the people we wish we were like (that’s a tongue twister). We’re tempted to show favoritism. We’re tempted because in our hearts we want to be the sort of people who can afford “a gold ring and fine clothes.” We’re tempted because we’ve heard danger-themed stories about people wearing “filthy old clothes.” Favoritism flows out of us unless something stops it.
And we need something to stop our tendency toward favoritism. Left unchecked, we will set ourselves up as judges over others. We will pretend like we’re the ones who get to determine who has value and how much they’re worth. We’ll communicate with our words and our actions where the lives of the people we connect with matter.
Before we know it our practice of favoritism will shrink our world so we’re only surrounded by people who are just like us and who make us comfortable. We’ll miss out on the many blessings the Lord wants to give us through the diverse network of relationships in the body of Christ. We’ll sit on the sidelines of God’s mission.
How do you respond to people who have more or less wealth than you? How does favoritism appear in your relationships with people who have more or less wealth than you?