One Hundred Percent
Religion, of whatever flavour, often thinks in varying degrees of right and wrong. Sins may be categorised as either significant or trivial, and even lies can be called 'white' or 'black' depending on their supposed effect on others. But the Bible does not teach that kind of religious thinking. Quite the opposite. Either we love the Lord our God wholeheartedly or we do not. Our thoughts, words and deeds are either 100% right or wrong ... there are no shades of grey with Him. The Bible says that only 100%, all the time, is good enough for God (Habakkuk 1:13a). He does not look at selected acts of righteousness or religious piety; He looks at the whole of our lives. This is profoundly disappointing for those religionists who like to aim for a 75-85% 'pass mark'.
Sin is described in the Bible in different ways; one is 'to miss the mark' (Romans 3:23). It is an archery term, meaning - to fail to hit the target. It is not good enough to be perfect in many areas of life and yet sinful in others. James, who was well aware of the pitfalls of family life, would have observed that his half-brother Jesus was always right, all the time; which also amazed people in his local town (Mark 6:3). Even the religious leaders who were scrutinising Jesus' life could not find any fault with Him (Luke 11:53-54). His life completely matched the requirements of God's law, all the time. The 'royal law' of loving our neighbours as ourselves is broken if we love some and despise others (James 2:8-10): Jesus was not like that.
James now closes in on hypocrisy in the church. He is urging his readers to realise that favouritism is not trivial - it is sin; it is as offensive to God as adultery or murder. However pious we may be, treating other people as inferior, simply because they do not have money (or the class or culture which comes with privilege), is wickedness in God's eyes (James 2:3-4). It reveals the sin in our hearts (Luke 6:45). It shows that we do not understand or appreciate the largeness of God's grace or mercy. It reeks of ingratitude, and the arrogance that comes with the self-made person.
Some think that Christianity should be kept for private devotions or for church. But the workplace needs this teaching; indeed, the heart-attitudes of believers are best tested there. Those who care about all their employers, workforce and customers equally, will do better than those who think that the 'small fry' do not matter. Those who treat people as Jesus would have treated people in His carpentry shop will find that they acquire employee and customer loyalty. However, true Christians do not modify their behaviour simply for short term gain; their lifestyle is an integral part of their faith and looks to an eternal reward. Even if there is no immediate benefit, we must abandon favouritism as a business or social practice because God says it is wrong. It is totally against the message of God's grace in the gospel (www.crosscheck.org.uk). Wherever we are guilty in this, we must repent and start being obedient to Jesus and His gospel (Titus 2:11-14).
© Dr Paul Adams