Monday, June 10, 2013

A Faith that Works Doesn't Discriminate (James 2.1-13)

Scripture: James 2.1-13
Translation: 2.1My brothers, don’t hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ of glory with partialities. 2For if a man with gold fingers would come into your synagogue in shining-white clothes, but also a poor man would come in filthy clothes, 3And you would look on the one wearing the shining-white clothes and would say, “You, sit here in a good spot” and to the poor man you would say “You stand or sit there under my footrest.” 4Then aren’t you being discriminated among yourselves and haven’t you become judges of with wicked thought-processes? 5Listen up, my loved brothers, didn’t God pick for Himself the poor in/with regard to the world as rich in faith and inheritors of the kingdom, which He promised to those who love Him? 6But you yourselves dishonor the poor person! Aren’t the rich people exploiting you and aren’t they themselves dragging you into court? 7Aren’t they blaspheming the Good Name that was called on us? 8If, however, you fulfill royal law according to the Scripture: “You will love your neighbor as yourself,” you act in a good way. 9But if you act with partiality, you commit sin, being exposed by the Law as violators, 10because whoever would keep the whole law, but would trip up on one part, he is in a state of having become guilty of all of them! 11For the one who says, “You will not commit adultery” also said “You will not murder.” And if you don’t commit adultery, but you do murder, you are in the state of having become a violator of the Law. 12So speak in this way and act in this way: as those who are about to be judged through the law of freedom! 13For the judgment was merciless against the one not showing mercy! Mercy boasts against judgment!

The Point I’m Stressing: We need to love absolutely everyone else so much that we don’t show favoritism to some and/or discriminate against others, if we truly have living faith that works!

1.      Structure
a.       Section One: NO Partialities/Discrimination (vv.1-4)
                                                              i.      Instruction: Don’t show partiality/discriminate
                                                            ii.      Example: giving the rich man a good seat and the poor man no seat
                                                          iii.      Implication: You’re discriminating and judging with wicked reasoning
b.      Section Two: Rhetorical Questions to Show the Foolishness of Partiality/Discrimination (vv.5-7)
                                                              i.      Question: God picked poor people to have faith and inheritance in the Kingdom
                                                            ii.      Exclamation: You dishonor the poor person
                                                          iii.      Question: The rich people are the ones cause you trouble?
                                                          iv.      Question: The rich people are the ones blaspheming the name given to us
c.       Section Three: Partiality/Discrimination in Light of Scripture, Answering the Objection “We don’t do the really bad stuff, or other bad stuff, just this, so it’s no big deal” (vv.8-13)
                                                              i.      Positive Statement of the Thesis: If you do what the Bible says, you do what’s good.
                                                            ii.      Negative Statement of the Thesis: If you don’t do what the Bible says, you’ve broken the Scriptural Law
                                                          iii.      Explanation: You can keep part of a law and say I’ve kept the law: the Law is a whole
                                                          iv.      Example: You can’t say “I keep the law, I don’t commit adultery,” if you’ve killed someone, because that’s part of the law too
                                                            v.      Resolution: Act like you are about to be judged by the Law of Freedom (that is, our new relationship to the Scriptural Law in Christ), i.e. quit discriminating
                                                          vi.      Motivation: You’ll get no mercy if you don’t give any, but mercy is better and beats judgment (so don’t fear judgment if God has shown you mercy, which means you will be showing mercy to others)
2.      Themes
a.       Partiality/Discrimination
                                                              i.      This is the main theme of the passage.
                                                            ii.      Key words
1.      προσωπολημψια = partiality, favoritism, (v.1)
2.      προσωπολψμπτεω = to play favorites, show partiality (v.9)
3.      διακρινω = to discriminate, make distinctions (v.4)
                                                          iii.      the issue here in showing partiality is treating one group of people or one person better than others, giving them especially better treatment, but often to the detriment of or at the expense of the other group(s).
                                                          iv.      this is something that can creep into our faith, and it is possible to be a Christian and slip into this, but we must seek not to let it creep in. in fact, we cannot hold on tightly to our faith and hold on to partiality, in part because that partiality is conferred most often out of a lack of faith in God. In the example James uses, the reason that one would suck up to the rich guy and give him extra respect is in part due to his likely high status in the society, but often also out of a fear of what he could do or a need of his financial support. Thus, at the heart, we would be pulled away from equality and love towards one another mainly because we don’t trust God to either protect or provide for us or give us what is best for us.
                                                            v.      At the heart of discrimination, is judging one person or group to be different or distinct from the others, even more it is judging one person or group or class of people as better than others, and thus also one group as worse or unimportant
                                                          vi.      So while partiality focuses on the increased status and honor given to one group, discrimination looks more at how the groups are treated differently, but really they are talking about the same thing
                                                        vii.      The author calls partiality/discrimination sin that violates the command to love our neighbor like we love ourselves, so really at the heart of partiality and discrimination is not just a lack of faith, but a lack of love, a failure to love others as much as we love ourselves. And since that principle applies to every other person equally, we can’t be extra loving to one guy and unloving to another guy
b.      Rich vs. poor
                                                              i.      This is a theme that runs through the book, it was introduced in chapter 1, and here it pops back up as the main area in which the partiality and discrimination was taking place, people in the churches James is writing to seem to have been favoring the rich people and dishonoring the poor people.
                                                            ii.      This may have been just in how they were treating them when gathering for worship, but it also may have been happening when they were gathering to adjudicate disputes (it seems that there is a lot of evidence on both sides, but in both cases it would be a gathering of the church, which I think is the core issue: how are Christians treating each other when they gather)
                                                          iii.      The author explains that God has picked the poor to be rich in faith but poor as far as the world is concerned. But He picked them not just to be rich in faith (which seems to mean that He picked them to be the people who would be forced to, or more practiced at, or more given to trusting Him more and more, so that they would be the people who have LOTS of faith), but to be rich in the future, which is the implication of inheritors of the kingdom, because inheriting the kingdom will mean inheriting eternal life, but also all the riches that come with that kingdom, and those riches will never end. The end result is that the poor are actually the people who are the most rich, because they are rich now in faith, and will be rich later in the kingdom.
                                                          iv.      The characterization of the wicked however is that they are exploitive, litigious, and blasphemous. Whether the rich in view are Christians or not is debatable, but perhaps not, it may be that the churches who were so poor were trying to suck up to the rich people, so they might convert and the Christians be better off, but it may also be that they are rich Christians that they are trying to convince to finance something, and they may be doing this by the way they are treating them in these adjudication meetings
c.       Wisdom
                                                              i.      While the word wisdom is not used here, the argumentation style in vv.5-7, especially 6-7, is very similar to something you would see in the Book of Proverbs or other wisdom books. The point is that it is not very wise to favor the rich and dishonor the poor, because God actually favors the poor, and the rich often dishonor the poor and God, because God values and chose the poor
                                                            ii.      Also, favoring the rich doesn’t make much sense, especially at adjudication meetings, because it is the rich who are the ones usually making trouble for people and Christians, it is usually the rich who exploit people, not the poor, and it is usually the rich who drag people to court, not the poor, and it is usually the rich who mock Christ and Christians
                                                          iii.      It’s just stupid to favor the rich people if they are usually the source of your problems
d.      Law
                                                              i.      James says the heart of the problem of partiality/discrimination is that it violates the command to love our neighbors as ourselves.
                                                            ii.      James also makes the point that it is not valid to defend one’s violation of the Law of Moses by saying that you’ve kept another part. He really argues on the basis that the Law in the Old Testament (Genesis through Deuteronomy) is a whole. His argument only works if all the sections are connected. So if you break one part, you’ve become guilty of breaking the whole thing. it’s like if you break link on the bike chain, you’ve broke the bike chain as a whole, not just one link. Since you’ve violated the thing as a whole, it’s almost like you violated all of the commands
e.       Judging
                                                              i.      The idea comes in key words διακρινω (v.4), κριτηρια (v.6), κρινω (v.12), and κρισις (v.13[2x])
                                                            ii.      Discrimination is one form of judging, and it may be form of withholding mercy from people
                                                          iii.      And it may be in the judicial realm that some of the discriminating judging takes place.
                                                          iv.      The judging will also come at the end of time when God will evaluate our actions
                                                            v.      judging is powerful, but it is not as good as mercy
                                                          vi.      judging in the sense of evaluating the true nature of things also seems to occur now, we are right now able to be evaluated by the Scripture, and the rest of chapter two indicates that we can be evaluated now on how alive our faith is bases on how full it is with the works that Scripture requires
f.       Actions
                                                              i.      Faith and actions go hand in hand
                                                            ii.      This theme is sort like the glue that holds a lot of this section together, or more accurately the understanding that what we do actually matters is the foundation that a lot of this is built off of
                                                          iii.      How we treat people matters
                                                          iv.      We will be evaluated one day based off what we do and have done and what we don’t do and haven’t done
                                                            v.      We can also evaluate ourselves based off how we are acting and what our actions are saying, and these can give us an indication of how alive our faith really is.
                                                          vi.      This theme of actions is related to faith in 2.14-26
3.      Doctrines
a.       The Final Judgment: One Day God will evaluate us on what we have done and not done to determine the amount of rewards we will get if we have trusted in Christ
b.      Salvation by Faith alone, but faith that flows out to the appropriate actions, trying to hold faith in Christ Jesus together with ungodly actions should be done and doesn’t work
c.       The Church is not a place of favoritism/partiality or discrimination, but of genuine love for absolutely everyone, and a love for everyone that even goes beyond other Christians to other people in general
d.      God Absolutely Sovereign, in total control of absolutely everything, including how much faith people have and how they get that faith and the general circumstances of our lives
e.       The Law is One Complete Entity, it is not divisible, so it must be obeyed in full, but our relationship to the Law is one of freedom, where Jesus has done all the Law wants for us and has empowered us by His Holy Spirit to naturally and more easily live out the core message of the Law, so that it can be for us not a Law of slavery to rules, but a Law of Freedom to live for God
4.      Notes
a.       How can God be the God of Antidiscrimination/Favoritism and save by Grace, which is at the core of things, Him favoring some people and not others?
                                                              i.      God doesn’t discriminate or show favoritism, which is actually why Jesus had to die for our sins, because otherwise God would have to give us what we deserve,
                                                            ii.      but He also shows that He is not the God of Discrimination or favoritism in that the access we have to Him in Christ by the Holy Spirit is not by means of any superior value in us or what we do, but by faith in Christ by the Spirit according to His Will.
                                                          iii.      Of course, the irony is that God doesn’t play favorites based on our works or discrepancy of value, precisely so that He can play favorites for the people He loves without Discrimination, the people He loves because He loves them and not because they are better than others or can do more for God than others.
                                                          iv.      How direct is His Grace! He loved us because He loved us
                                                            v.      because He created us, each person could be whatever He wanted them to be, He chose our destinies, so there can be no discrimination, only Grace, only pure and loving favoritism (because God made some people to love and some to not love as much, but the decision was made by Him and His Love, not on any distinction in persons, because we didn’t yet exist, and He could make each person for whatever purpose He wanted)
                                                          vi.      also, note when God plays favorites it is different from when we do it. We do it based on outside criteria, and what people can do to us or for us. We think this person is better or worse, but God says, “This person isn’t better than another, but I do love him/her!”
                                                        vii.      also, if God had discriminated against us, He wouldn’t have sent His son, because none of us would have been good enough to deserve to have Jesus die for us!

1.      Bluntly stated the main point of the passage is that for us who truly trust in Christ for eternal life, there must be no discrimination:
a.       No Ethnic/Racial Discrimination
b.      No Cultural Discrimination
c.       No Generational Discrimination
d.      No Lingual Discrimination
e.       No Intellectual Discrimination
f.       No Discrimination based on the kinds of sins people struggle with
g.      No Socio-Economic Discrimination
2.      Often times the people we favor are the ones who cause us the most trouble, not the people we devalue, disfavor, or dislike
3.      The end point is that we truly and fully love people
a.       This means that we can’t be arrogant or selfish with the Gospel, because keeping it to ourselves is actually a way of saying, they are not important enough to give it, they aren’t worth suffering for.
b.      This includes how we treat our parents, spouses, children, etc.
                                                              i.      We can discriminate against our parents by not showing love to our parents, which is in the same vein as discriminating against the poor, only worse because they are our parents
4.      The tendency in our personal relationships is to discriminate against the person, to say like that we are better than them with our actions. This is especially true with people we don’t know well, but also with our friends and family, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, but this often happens in ways that aren’t obvious
5.      Do we give justice to people?
a.       When there is an issue between people, do we side with the one we want to like us or the people that can help us do something?
b.      Are we fair to each other in general?
6.      Sometimes we discriminate inadvertently, no because we have the wrong attitude or aren’t pursuing to integrate people into our community and love people, but because we don't know ourselves well enough, and so we are blind to certain areas and impressions and barriers that could be there that we can’t see. So we must too at ourselves and know the impression we would give off and compensate, which doesn’t always mean changing those features (sometimes they can’t be changed), but it does mean working against their effects when necessary.

a.       For example, I know a church that is full of very smart people, who are loving and seek to integrate people in general, but what if someone came to that church who hadn’t finished high school. That person might feel very uncomfortable when surrounded by all those people who are in college or finished with college. The church wouldn’t mean to discriminate that person who didn’t finish high school, but they might do so in effect, because all the members will assume the person finished high school and they may not know what to talk about with that person. If they talk about all that they are learning or achieving academically, how do you think that will make that visitor feel? 

No comments:

Post a Comment