Partiality and Prejudice
by Dennis Michelson
Introduction: According to James 2:1 and 2:9, partiality and prejudice are a denial of our faith and also causes us to commit sin.
1. The Principle of Prejudice (2:1)
The Greek term for respect of persons has to do with looking at someone's face and then making a judgment as if you already knew more than you did. We tend to categorize people without objective reason. We jump to conclusions before we have had a proper introduction.
We count someone out before we have counted them in. In short, prejudice reveals an underlying belief that we think we are either less than or better than someone else. Prejudice stems from pride and pride comes from drifting too far away from the Cross.
It is striking that James calls the Lord Jesus Christ "the Lord of glory." It is as if to say that there is only One above all others and the rest are on the same level. Indeed the ground at the foot of the Cross is level. What makes us partial some people and not to others? Is it based upon reasoned judgment and discernment or simply on the whim of long-held prejudice?
2. The Practice of Prejudice (2:2-3)
James gives an excellent example from the life of the church. We tend to be partial toward those from whom we can receive something and neglect those who seemingly have nothing to give (us). Some have called this "the sin that ushers commit." I do not think such favoritism is limited to the lobby.
3. The Problem with Prejudice (2:4-10)
(a) Our thoughts are "evil" (2:4) Those who discriminate in this sense are governed by wicked motives and certainly have forgotten that they themselves are the objects of God's grace. Paul said that when we compare ourselves among ourselves then we are not wise.
(b) Our perspective is wrong (2:5-7) We tend toward choosing those God has not, and ignoring those He has chosen. We are good at knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing.
(c) We break the "royal law" (2:8-9) If we love God them we will love people. If we love some people and not others then we break the royal law. This is at the root of much of the problem the church faces today - we love programs but often do not love people.
In fact, some ministries actually use people to promote their program rather than using the program to promote the people.
(d) We are "lawbreakers" (2:10) Understanding the truth of this verse will keep you from prejudice. When all is said and done then there is One Lawgiver and everyone else is a law breaker.
We are guilty of thinking we are better than someone else when we think that we have not broken the same laws as they have. James demolished this thinking by bluntly stating the all lawbreakers are equally culpable for breaking the "whole law."
Conclusion: Just a brief word of clarification. Matthew tells us to not cast our pearls before swine or give that which is holy unto the dogs. This is true discernment based upon factual determinations and judgment.
If and when Christians discriminate it must be based upon the principles of God's Word and not our presuppostions and prejudices based upon personal opinion.