Where I Feel Like a Model
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. James 2:1
A couple years ago, my wife and I took a trip for our 20th anniversary. I’ll not mention the destination, except to say that it was a beach vacation. On our first day at the beach, I noticed something peculiar. I don’t know how to say it nicely, but this was a very out-of-shape population who appeared to live off fried goods and cheesecake. Now I’ve got my belly fat, but in that environment, I looked like a supermodel compared to everyone else the beach. It’s an amusing story, but there was a dark side to it. It wasn’t just that I was aware that I was in better shape. Part of me began to look down on them for their physical condition. Gigantic bellies hanging over way-too-small speedos made me feel superior. I’m better than you . . .
It’s something we laugh about now, but the memory reveals an evil tendency that most of us have. We naturally compare ourselves to others, alternately feeling better than or less than those around us. There’s a natural pecking order in our world and most of us are aware of our place on it. We look up to those above us with admiration or jealousy and we look down on those below us with condescension.
James warned about his tendency in today’s passage. In it, he told a parable of an assembly attended by both rich and poor. In the story, he described the flattering treatment the rich received and the disdainful treatment the poor received. In describing our partiality, he accused – Have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts (James 2:4)? He went on to quote Jesus – You shall love your neighbor as yourself (James 2:8), insisting that we disobey Christ by showing partiality.
Most of us do this without even realizing it. We pridefully judge others by their intelligence, clothing, beauty, color of skin, life choices, wealth, or even by weight and height. The problem is that once we deem ourselves to be superior, then we can justify any despicable treatment of those who’re less than us. They deserve misfortune.
Because it’s so easy to do and because most of us do it in some small way, we tend to overlook this behavior. James though, went on to mention adultery and murder in the same passage, insisting that partiality is no small sin. Even if it’s something we do only in our minds, partiality is profoundly corrosive to our faith. God loves everyone. We’re not better than anyone and, if we truly follow Christ, we must live accordingly.