In James’s example of the assembly gone wrong, he zeroes in on all that a human has to go on in judging someone else: appearances. Gold rings, fine apparel, and filthy clothes are used to determine how someone should be treated. Can’t this be terribly inaccurate? Not all who are rich wear nice clothes (hello, Mark Zuckerburg), and not all who are poor wear filthy clothes. One of the key reasons to not judge others is not just that it isn’t nice, but that humans make awful judges. Unlike God, who sees the heart and can judge clearly (1 Sam. 16:7), humanity is only able to see the surface level, which does not provide enough information to make a fair, let alone righteous, judgment.

James says that showing favoritism is equivalent to “becom[ing] judges with evil thoughts,” and it denies the reality of how God deals with the poor, namely, for them to be “rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him” (James 2:4, 5).

He then pivots and asks two pointed questions about the rich: “Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?” (vv. 6, 7). Said another way, Why are you trying to impress people who don’t even care about you? Why are you seeking to elevate those who oppress you? Why are you honoring those who dishonor the God who is supposed to be most important to you? Even from a selfish perspective, this does not make any sense. Why worship those who degrade? Why put people on a pedestal who are not worth emulating? By oppressing their brothers and sisters and blaspheming God, the so-called successful give evidence of a bankrupt soul, a success that is nominal alone.

This skewed perspective invariably affects the spirituality of those who hold it. Caught up in the standards and paradigms of the world, it’s possible to show partiality to those who are successful in the world and yet sideline the God who created them. God is treated as “poor,” passed over for His lack of worldly popularity and acceptance. This does not need to be so.

Humanity is not categorized by the haves and the have-nots, sifted for possessions or talents that determine their value. This perspective is a sin that brings countless delusions in its wake. Seeing fellow humans and God as they really are, with the eyes of faith, helps preserve God on the throne of one’s heart, as well as an accurate view of all humans—one of compassion and truth.