Read This Week’s Passage: James 2:1–13

Less than and Greater than

When Christians categorize sins as “grievous” and “bad, but not so bad,” there seem to be a few that are often categorized the same way. Drinking and smoking are grievous, as are sexual sins. Telling lies isn't that bad, as long as the lies aren’t too big, and being prideful is something to get over but also not that bad. Showing favoritism or partiality—is that even a sin? Everyone has their preferences and their viewpoints.

It’s interesting how the so-called not-so-bad sins rank worse in the Word of God than they often do in humanity’s view. The serpent of old used a lie to entice Eve into the first sin in history. The devil was kicked out of heaven for being prideful and refusing to let go of his faulty view of himself. Showing favoritism and partiality denies the inestimable value Jesus has placed on every life by giving His own. It also shows a worldly mindset based on worldly standards. Put that way, it’s easier to see how it actually is quite grievous.

Instead of telling his listeners to simply “not be partial,” James gives a clear example of how it can look: When people come over to your house, and you give preferential treatment to someone who appears to be rich, and then treat someone who looks poor in a negative way, you’re showing partiality (James 2:2–4). Furthermore, you’re holding “the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . with partiality” (v. 1). This is not just a social issue. It’s a spiritual one.

Without the example, it can be easy to allow one’s internal narrative to sidestep any blame. I don’t think rich people are better than poor people. Not really. But evidence doesn’t lie in internal narratives. It lies in one’s actions.

Though James’s focus is on economic comparisons, this principle extends to all comparisons. Giving preferential treatment to those perceived as prettier, smarter, taller, shorter, thinner, bigger, more articulate, or any other comparison that society brings to one’s attention is just as damaging and just as contrary to the faith of Jesus. It uses a worldly paradigm of categorizing people as less than or greater than one another.

In the kingdom of God, all are bought by the same unfathomable price of the blood of Christ. No amount of money, looks, communication, or status can alter a human’s value one bit—neither to increase or lessen it.