[epistle of james] chapter 2

Written by Julia Swodeck

Blogger at Tither of Innovation, on Twitter at @juliakate.

April 29, 2011

[serialposts]

Read James 2 (NASB, ESV, MSG)

when i was kid growing up in the church, the ushers to me were like the royal guard. they were the gate keepers and they were definitely intimidating. all except the one who handed out tootsie rolls to the kids. he was awesome! he never gave me a stern look when i whispered to my brothers during the sermon, and he never snatched the offering envelopes from my hand when i was drawing pictures of the organist. he was nice. but then again, he was the usher at the door. he welcomed everyone. he didn’t tell us where to sit or how to act, he just smiled, said “welcome”, and gave us candy. he was a fantastic usher!

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. (vs. 1 NIV)

i grew up in a middle-class turned lower middle-class neighborhood in North Miami. my church gathering was tested during this transition. i don’t remember a thing about it. i was a kid. i don’t remember how they greeted the homeless who decided to join us. and to take favoritism a step further, i don’t remember where they placed the unattractive singer in the choir. i don’t really remember where they sat the mentally challenged teen who would sometimes make funny noises. it wasn’t until i moved to California, as a young adult, that i began to see the separation. the homeless were few and far between. the singer was placed out of the camera shot. the mentally challenged teen was seated near the door.

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? (vs. 3-4 NIV)

whether or not your church gathering has ushers, reserved seating, a dress code, or locked rooms that only a chosen few are permitted to enter, favoritism is existent. why the separation? why endorse elitism? why not follow the example of Christ? why not heed the words spoken here in James?  what are we saying to those who walk into the doors of a church gathering for the first time if we have rows of reserved seating, locked doors marked “staff only”, whisked away stage folks, and green room caves that they may never ever step foot in? have we considered that many of the same folks rejected by us have also been rejected by the world? it leaves me wondering… who else then will love them, welcome them, and truly see the worth and beauty within them?

Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges.

This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. (vs. 5 Msg)

what are your thoughts on favoritism and discrimination within the church?

what changes can we make to be inclusive as opposed to exclusive?

11 Comments

  1. Keri

    This may not be speaking EXACTLY to what your excellent post is about…but, in terms of exclusion and inclusion, I think the churh is probably one of the most discriminatory places to be. We separate the young from the old. We have a separate “youth” service. A lot of churches have a “traditonal” service and a “contemporary” service. I’m all for celebrating differences, but I think we need to celebrate them together, not separately. The young need the wisdom of the elderly. The elderly need the passion of the youth. I agree that we all have different needs, but I cringe at the idea of putting the teens in the corner, purposely selecting more hymns for the older congregants. We are one body, and we should operate as such, which also means putting the needs of others before ourselves.

    Love this question you posed: have we considered that many of the same folks rejected by us have also been rejected by the world?

    So true, and so sad. The church should be a welcoming place, where people feel loved, where needs are meet, physical, spiritual, and emotional. I’m preaching to the choir here, because it’s so easy for me to see the church as a place to get my needs fill and not as a place to fill the needs of others.

    Good stuff, Julia. I was anxious to see where the post on ch. 2 would lead. I also like how the part about faith and works ties back to the intro about favoritism. To truly exericse our faith, we have to rise above our human tendencies, our discomfort, and our awkwardness, to love others as Christ would love them-that is true faith.

    Reply
    • Juliakate

      Thank you for sharing your perspective Keri. I also have considered the separation of ages, classes, sex, etc. There really is so much that this text covers, whether or not James calls it out word for word.
      The verse that sticks out to me & gets my blood pumping is “isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently?” you’d think, but yet we refuse follow His example in this.

      Thank you again for reading and adding insight.

      Reply
    • @bibledude

      i love this idea that #Christians should look and act differently… and starting with our own segregation seems like a good place to start!

      I love what you continue to bring to this conversation Keri! You’ve added some great food for thought to what Julia started us with! Thanks!

      Reply
  2. Bryant Neal

    Thanks Julia for your thoughts on chapter 2! Sadly, favoritism and elitism exists everywhere, even in the one place where it shouldn’t because it’s owner/operator never practiced, nor endorsed it…the church. We live in such a performance based culture that we form many of our relationships based on the ‘what can I get from this relationship that will make me better’ rule of thumb as opposed to the ‘what can I give in this relationship that will make others better’ rule that Christ modeled for us through His life, death, and resurrection. As believers, we need to understand that it is the giving away of ourselves that enhances us and makes us better, not the taking away from others.

    This is where the economy of God goes against the economy of man….

    Thanks again for a great post!

    Reply
    • Juliakate

      Such a beautiful truth, that “the giving away of ourselves enhances us & not taking away from others”. Thank you for adding your thoughts. In Christ, there is always hope. I have seen His ways in some of our practices & then in others we seem so unwilling to break away from culture/society. There is hope.

      Reply
    • @bibledude

      Preach it Pastor Bryant! I love what you bring to the conversation!

      Reply
  3. nance|marie

    good questions and thoughts over all.

    Reply
  4. Crystal

    Great post Julia! I’ve really been struggling with this a lot over the last 10 years or so. Too often “the church” on the inside doesn’t look anything at all like what I imagine Jesus had in mind. It’s so easy to create an us vs. them … we have the right beliefs, wear the right clothes, make the right grades, have the right jobs … and all those other people – well, we just feel sorry for them.

    I think, at least the churches that I have been a part of, have done a good job of inviting them into our church buildings and helping them feel welcome for that short period of time on Sunday morning, but once we all leave … we’re never speaking to them again.

    The same is true when we haven’t seen people at church for a while … if they are the “right” people, we’ll call and ask if everything is okay. But if they aren’t in the “in crowd” we’ll just wonder where they’ve been.

    It makes me sad … and the worst part is that I don’t know how to change it. All I can do is change my own actions and hope that it catches on.

    Reply
    • Juliakate

      Well that and bring awareness of truth & hope for change by writing about it;)
      Thanks for reading and adding your experience and thoughts on the matter.

      Reply

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[epistle of james] chapter 2

by Julia Swodeck time to read: 3 min
12