Scripture Focus: James 2:5-6a
Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: 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? But you have dishonored the poor.
Reflection: Don’t Play Favorites
By Jon Polk
A man walks into a church for worship wearing an expensive, tailored Armani suit and the greeter at the door shows him to a seat near the front of the sanctuary. An obviously homeless man arrives at the same church wearing clothes and worn-out sandals from a thrift store, and he is promptly escorted away from the sanctuary and asked to watch the service from the overflow room.
Yes, the example seems extreme, but James, having been the leader of the early church in Jerusalem, does not sound as if he is speaking hypothetically in the opening verses of chapter two.
We express preferences and show partiality every day in our lives. We cheer on our favorite sports teams, listen to music by the artists we enjoy, have dinner with friends and cast our votes for our preferred political candidates.
While most of this favoritism is harmless, James is quick to call out our hypocrisy in showing favoritism unjustly while Jesus has expressly directed us to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Matt 22:39)
One of the most egregious ways James says we manifest the sin of partiality is the way in which we treat the poor and those in need. His words to the rich here in chapter two (2:6-7) and later also in chapter five (5:1-6) are quite scathing in their rebuke. The church should be a hallowed ground where all people are found equal before God, regardless of their financial profile.
James cites a paradox when seen through the eyes of the world: the poor are a model of humble courage and deep faith and the rich are examples of arrogance and shallow faith.
We make judgments with our own eyes as to the character and circumstances of someone in poverty. Jim Wallis writes, “Most Americans believe that if you work hard and full-time, you should not be poor. But the truth is that many working families are, and many low-income breadwinners must hold down multiple jobs just to survive.”
There are over 2,000 verses in the Bible that refer to poverty and our God-given responsibility to seek justice for the poor. Theologians use the phrase “God’s preferential option for the poor” to refer to the trend in Scripture of commands and teachings from God, Jesus, and the prophets towards care for the needs of the poor and powerless in society.
Looks like God may have turned our notion of favoritism upside-down.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
O God of hosts, show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved. — Psalm 80.7
– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.
1 Chronicles 15 (Listen -4:38)
James 2 (Listen -3:32)
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