Equality is in the Heart
What is the difference between right and wrong? Clearly, they are opposites but how are they defined? Who has the right to say what is right and wrong? These have become big questions in our multicultural world. The ultimate answer is that the Lord has the right to define righteousness and wickedness. Because all power and authority has been given to Jesus (Matthew 28:18), He sets the rules and we are accountable to Him for how we obey them. James knew that Jesus had affirmed God's Word through Moses (Leviticus 19:18) and saw, 'Love your neighbour', as a King's command. It is second only to the command to love God wholeheartedly (Matthew 22:37-40).
All people are equal in God's sight (Galatians 3:28), and that principle needs to mark Christ's church. It does not mean that we are equally free to do whatever we like, indulging our sinful hearts in wickedness. No. It means that we are all equally responsible to serve God as He commands and to care for each other as loving members of the same family.
On the other hand, favouritism is not real love. It is a self-serving activity; pretending to love those who can bring advantage to us, while ignoring those who need our help. In the context of this passage, the rich were favoured because of what they might give, and the poor were shunned because they could be a burden on the church and to be seen as their friends in the community would bring social disdain. But that is a very long way from the 'royal law'. Those who discriminated in favour of the rich had violated the law given through Moses, and the instruction of King Jesus, who is also the Judge! James puts it strongly saying that 'sin is at work and you are doing it'. Jesus was even more robust in Matthew 7:23, 'Then I will tell them plainly, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!"'
James knew that Jesus did not just talk about this radical lifestyle, He lived it! However, most Christians have not been brought up to think like that. A change is needed: but before our behaviour changes, our hearts must be transformed (Romans 12:1-2). We need God to help us with that, and often the first step is to admit our sin/weakness/failing in this area and tell the Lord that we do not know how to live differently; and then ask Him to show us. If there are other Christians at work, why not discuss this with them and agree to pray for each other to change. It could also be a good topic (based on James 2:1-13) for a Christian Fellowship meeting at work. So why not make a decision to do something about it?
© Dr Paul Adams