HOW TO TREAT PEOPLE RIGHT
Developing a Faith That Works - Part 7
James 2:1-13; June 28, 2009
I want us to look at what James has to say about "How to Treat People Right." Your biggest problems and mine are people problems -- getting along with other people. James talks about "How do you get along with people? He gives us the principle, the problem, and the application in this passage.
I. THE PRINCIPLE – Don’t Show Favoritism
v. 1 "My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism."
Whenever James starts a sentence "my brothers" he's getting ready to nail you. Count on it! He's talking about prejudice, partiality, favoritism. The New English Bible calls it "snobbery". Don't be a snob. A snob is somebody whose nose turns up when their eyes look down, somebody who thinks they're better than everybody else. The Greek word is a compound word that means "to receive" and "to face". It literally means "to receive somebody's face" -- to receive somebody at face value, on the basis of how they look, superficial judgment. James says, “Don't do that. Don't accept people just on superficial judgments.” The Good News says, "Never treat anybody in a different way
according to their outward appearance." It's a common social disease. This morning, in order to deal with it, we need to look at some common areas of discrimination.
Appearance -- We discriminate often because of appearance. Beauty is everything in our world. If you're a cute kid you've got it made. If you're plain, tough luck! We judge people on their appearance -- how they look, how they dress. I heard about an experiment with some hitch- hikers. They dressed them up in different ways. The dressier the hitchhiker was, the more likely he was to be picked up. How you're dressed definitely influences how you relate to people.
Ancestry -- We judge people according to their race, their nationality, their ethnic background. I heard about a black man who went to a church in the south and was trying to get in. It was full of bigots and they wouldn't let him in. He went to the pastor and told him. The pastor said, "You just need to pray about it." About three weeks later the pastor saw him and asked, "Did you talk to the Lord about it?" The man said, "Yes, and God said, `Don't worry, I've been trying to get in that church for 20 years and I still can't get in.'"
Age -- You're too young or too old. So you make a judgement on someone based on their age?
Achievement -- Our society gushes over winners and forgets the losers. One minute you're a hero and the next minute you're a zero. Success and status are keywords. People who are successful are catered to. James says, “don’t give special treatment based on someone’s success.
Affluence -- the most common distinction. We judge people by their wealth -- whether they're rich or poor -- their economic status. What attitude do you have toward people who make more money than you do? What attitude do you have toward people who make less money than you do?
This is the area that James picks out of all the areas we can discriminate in. He talks about economic distinction. v. 2 "Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold
ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby 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?”
Two guys are strangers. They arrive at the church at the same time. We know they are strangers because they didn't know where to sit. The first guy walks in and he is dripping with wealth. Everybody knows he doesn’t fit because in the New Testament times most
of the Christians were poor. Most of them were slaves. It says he has gold rings -- literally, in the Greek, "he is gold fingered". In New Testament times, you could rent rings to prove how wealthy you were. They would cut jewels and sew them onto their clothes. He had fine clothes on. James doesn't criticize the guy for being wealthy; he criticizes the members for being partial to him. He doesn't say there's anything wrong with having the wealth.
Then comes the guy who is poverty stricken. He is destitute and shabby. He has holes in his jeans and doesn't have his shoes on. He doesn't have any deodorant so he has B.O. and his hair is unkempt. He looks bad. The usher has to make a decision. Where will he seat him?
The usher takes the rich guy to the front row and seats him. "Take this nice place. We want everybody to know you're here. We want to take care of every one of your needs." Then he says to the other guy, "You can stand over there in a corner or you can sit on the floor." Literally, in the Greek it's "under my footstool." It's the ultimate putdown. He treats him carelessly.
Affinity: Are there people you just like to be around? You have a natural connection with them? Are there people you don’t like to be around? You avoid them. They rubbed
you wrong at one time; they ticked you off; so you place them lower on your priority scale, your value scale and you just don’t want to be around them.
II. THE PROBLEM
James says there are three problems with favoritism.
1. Favoritism is unchristian. If you want to be like Jesus you can't play favorites. "My
brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism." Faith
and favoritism are incompatible -- we're a family. This word "favoritism" is used only four times in the Bible. Every other time it's referring to God and it says, “God does not
play favorites.” Romans 2:11 "God does not show favoritism" Jesus treated everybody
with dignity. God loves everybody. If there is one place in the world where there shouldn't be any kind of discrimination it ought to be the church. There is discrimination everywhere else in the world. But there ought to be one place no matter who you are or what your background is that you're welcome.
Do you know how Alliance churches started? Because of what we are talking about here. A.B. Simpson was a Pastor in New York of a very wealthy church in 1887. He liked to go down to the docks and share Christ with the dock workers. He’d invite them to church, they would come, but the leaders of the church turned them away at the front door because they weren’t dressed well, they didn’t fit the class of the church. When Pastor Simpson realized the attitude of his church members, he decided to start a church on his own that reached people of all classes, races, and economic status. That is how the Alliance denomination started. Today there are 427 Alliance churches across Canada, over 2000 churches in the U.S., and a total of 13,600 churches worldwide in 81 countries, all because someone started a church that didn’t show favoritism. And we must be a
church like that too.
2. Favoritism is unreasonable. In v. 5-7 he says it's illogical, it doesn't make sense. “In
the first place,” he says, “God has chosen the poor.” "Has not God chosen those who are
poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” He's not saying that it's good to be poor and bad to be rich. He's not saying that only the poor will be saved. Everybody in this room is rich compared to
the majority of the world. It doesn't make any difference to God. Aren't you glad your salvation isn't based on your savings account? It doesn't matter where you buy your clothes or what you drive, you're welcome here. “It's illogical,” he says. Don't confuse where you get your self-worth from. God chooses the poor. He doesn't expect them to be wealthy in order to be saved. “On top of this,” he says, “the rich could care less about you”. Why worry about catering to them. "Is it not the rich exploiting you?" In New
Testament times it was the Roman nobility who were feeding the Christians to the lions. It was the upper crust (a bunch of crumbs held together by their own dough) that were persecuting the Christians, judging the Christians, insulting the Christians, throwing the Christians to the lions. James says, "Why are you worried about impressing them? They're certainly not worried about impressing you. They're doing the opposite."
“What other people think of me is becoming less and less important; what they think of Jesus because of me is critical.” Cliff Richard
Then he gives his primary reason in v. 8.
3. Favoritism is unloving. That's why you shouldn't do it. "If you really keep the royal
law found in Scripture, `Love your neighbor as yourself.' you're doing right." Why is it
called the royal law? Because if we obeyed that one we wouldn't need all of the rest. If I play favorites I'm being unloving.
The Bible says that how we relate to other people shows how much we really love God. I John 4:20, "If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone
who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” How I relate to you proves how much I love God. Favoritism is unloving.
Few of us know how to love unconditionally. We show favoritism.
v. 9 "But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” How many laws do you have to break to be a lawbreaker? One. How many crimes do you have to commit to become a criminal? One. How many links do you have to break to break a chain? One. James is saying that people think favoritism is such a small sin. But, he says, if you break God's rule, you break God's rule. Be careful it's serious business.
v. 11 "For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you
do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker." What is
he saying? He's illustrating his point about being unloving. …….What does God care if
I'm partial to certain kinds of people?" God says it's all the same! It's all important.
v. 12 “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” Love treats people with mercy. Love gives people what
they need, not what they deserve. James is probably thinking about his half-brother Jesus who said in the Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown
mercy.” Matthew 5:7
That's the problem. It's unchristian, it's unreasonable, it's unloving to show favoritism -- to be a snob. How do you treat people?
III. THE PRESCRIPTION:
How do you have a loving church? How do you treat people right? There was an article that said, "A loving connection in church growth. More people are drawn to caring facilities, scholarly studies say." It's talking about how the churches that love grow. "In a survey of 8,600 people from congregations in 39 different denominations they measured their `love quotient'. The institute reports growing churches are more loving to each other and to visitors than declining churches. Loving churches attract more people regardless of their theology, denomination or location." They surveyed them and gave them a quotient of 1 to 100. Of the 12 denominations scoring below 65 all of them except 2 were declining. Of the 13 denominations scoring above 65 all of them were growing in the past 10 years. Most churches that are growing today have learned how to love. A church that loves people is a church that grows. Typically in analyzing reasons for growth in a church the focus in the past has been on such factors as pastoral leadership, attractiveness of facilities, location, liberal or conservative theology, evangelical fervor, or style of music, programs offered. But there is increasing evidence that none of these influences a church's growth or decline as significantly as how much love and acceptance people experience when they attend." It’s about how we love new people, and how new people
see how we love each other!
It's love that reaches people. You don't argue people into the kingdom of heaven. You love them into the kingdom of heaven.
How do you do that? Three steps:
1. Accept everybody.
Do you know why people have a hard time accepting others? They confuse acceptance with approval. There's a big difference between acceptance and approval. You can accept somebody without approving of his lifestyle. He may be doing something totally contrary to the word of God, but you can accept him as a person without approving of the sin he's involved in.
"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you." Romans 15:7. That's a start --
acceptance. At TDAC we are trying to cultivate an attitude of acceptance. The church is a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints where they dress up for dress parade. If you're perfect, you don't belong here. This is a church where people are growing and being transformed. This is a church for people who don't have it all together. It doesn't matter where you've been. It matters where you are now where you’re going. We will look
different, think different, and act difference, but as long as we love each other keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus and how He wants us to live – we can live in harmony.
Some of us are going to get a surprise in Heaven because it's not exclusive enough. If we can't learn to get along together here on the earth, what makes us think we'll get along together in heaven? Accept everybody.
2. Appreciate everybody.
This goes a little bit further than acceptance. Philippians 2:35 "Do nothing from selfish
ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also the interests of others."
Appreciate everybody. Find something you can like, not just accept. Tell them so.
With some people this may require a little creativity. You may have to look a little while. Maybe you just need to value them for their uniqueness. Like Krazee Kones – all kinds of
flavors of ice cream. What if we were all vanilla? What a boring church we would be!
3. Affirm everybody.
Give everybody a lift whenever you can. I Thessalonians 5:11 "Encourage one another
and build each other up." When people stumble, don't criticize, sympathize. Be an
encourager not a complainer, not a condemner, a critical person, not a judger. You can encourage people just by smiling at them. The ministry of greeters in this church is crucial and vital. Every week we have visitors in our church. You only have one chance to make a first impression. Give a welcome handshake, a smile to people you don’t know
and those you do know.
What is God saying in James? The church that accepts, appreciates and affirms people is the church that God blesses. Absolutely nothing can stop the church that's filled with love. Nothing. It doesn't happen accidentally. It requires an all out effort by each of us. Everybody needs to contribute to the atmosphere of the church. Everybody here