The Book of JAMES
James J. Barker
GOD IS NOT A RESPECTER OF PERSONS
- James 2:1
reminds us that God is not a respecter of persons (cf. 2:9).
- Over and over
in the Bible, it is stated that God is not a respecter of persons.
- The conversion
of Cornelius, a Roman centurion in Acts 10 was a turning
point in the book of Acts, and in the history of
- Acts 10:34-36
says, "Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I
perceive that God is no respecter of persons. But in every nation he that feareth him,
and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. The word which God sent unto
the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of
- "He is Lord of
all" -- Lord of the Gentiles as well as the Jews. Lord of all peoples and all
- Romans 3:29
says, "Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of
the Gentiles also."
- Romans 10:12
and 13 says, "For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek:
for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon
the name of the Lord shall be
- First Peter
1:17 says God, "without respect of persons judgeth according to every
- Ephesians 6:9
says, "knowing that your Master also is in heaven;
neither is there respect of persons with him."
- Romans 2:11 says, "For there is
no respect of persons with God."
- Therefore, since God is not a respecter of persons, we
should be the same way (James 2:1; cf. Scofield
- Deuteronomy 1:17 says, "Ye shall not
respect persons in judgment."
- Favoritism and prejudice are worldly and unscriptural,
and should be avoided by believers. A black pastor friend of
mine used to receive phone calls from white pastors recommending he follow up on
some nice black families who had visited their
- He'd always ask them the same question: "Pastor, why
don't you follow up and receive them into your church?"
- There will be none of this in heaven (cf. Rev. 5:9;
- Prejudice can kill a church. By the way, this isn't simply a "black
and white" problem. For example, I
heard about Spanish-speaking church out on Long Island that was dominated by
Puerto Ricans, and they did not like it when people from El Salvador started
coming to their services.
- Sometimes, it has nothing to do with social status or
income, or different people groups, or skin color, or languages, etc. Sometimes a few key people or key
families can control a church. And these church "cliques" oftentimes can ruin a
church. There is absolutely no place in Christianity for prejudice, snobbery,
cliques, or favoritism.
WE OUGHT NOT DISCRIMINATE ON THE BASIS OF APPAREL
- The word
"discriminate" is often misused. For example, a few weeks ago during a panel discussion, Gov.
Andrew Cuomo was asked if he found any persuasive arguments against so-called
- Gov. Cuomo was
quoted as saying, "There is no answer from the opposition. There really isn't.
Ultimately, it's, 'I want to discriminate.' And that's anti-New York. It's
- That is a
terrible thing to say about people who simply believe the Word of God. And the Word of God condemns
- And the Bible
also condemns men and women living together as man and wife when they have never
been married. I mention this
because Gov. Cuomo and his mistress are not married but are living
- Hebrews 13:4
says, "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers
and adulterers God will judge."
- The word
"discriminate" simply means, "to recognize a
distinction." We must use
discrimination all the time, but what James 2 teaches is that it is wrong
to look down upon a poor person or to flatter a rich
is not always wrong, but in the context of James chapter 2 it is clearly
- Some churches
make a big ado when visitors come wearing fancy clothes and jewelry, driving an
expensive car, and so on. The Bible clearly condemns this
- I worked one
time with a Korean fellow who saw this firsthand and was put off by it. He told
me that the church he attended only selected rich men to serve as deacons. I
know for a fact that some American churches operate the same
- This does not just apply to church ushers or pastors –
all Christians need to be careful in their dealings with other people. We should
make all visitors feel welcome and at home.
- This passage does not mean that it is commendable to
come to church wearing shabby clothes. Nowadays, many people (especially some
young people) seem to pride themselves on how sloppy they dress. Unfortunately some pastors do the
same, getting in the pulpit wearing jeans and sandals, no necktie,
- These worldly pastors are sending a message -- "Anything
- Furthermore, James 2 does not it mean that it is wrong
for a church to have dress standards.
I was once talking to a pastor who told me it was wrong to have standards
in a church. I replied, "You need
money for your building program.
Why don't you have bingo games?
It works well for the Roman Catholics?"
- He said, "No, we couldn't do
- Then I said, "So you do have standards, it is just that
your standards are not as strict as those of other
- Even the weakest and worldliest
churches have some dress standards.
Most of them would not approve of women coming into the service wearing a
bikini bathing suit. But there is
no question that dress standards have changed, and not for the
- Pastors are wise to have dress
standards for church workers. That
is not what James 2 is talking about. What it means is that we are not to give
preferential treatment to those who come in wearing expensive attire, and we are
not to be rude to those who are poor
"in vile raiment"
WE OUGHT NOT DISCRIMINATE ON THE BASIS OF MONEY
- Job 34:19 says,
"How much less to him that accepteth not the persons of
princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor? for they all are the work of
- Abraham Lincoln
said: "God must surely love poor people because He made so many of them."
- This was
apparently a joke but there is much truth in it. The Bible says, "Hath not God
chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom…"
- This is a Biblical principle.
- Our Lord said
in Matthew 11:5, "The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the
lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor
have the gospel preached to them."
- Mark 12:37b
says, "And the common people heard him
gladly" (cf. Matthew 19:23-26).
most rich people are very self-satisfied and materialistic. They would rather
trust in their money than in God (cf. I Tim. 6:6-10).
- According to
the Bible, it is better to be neither rich nor poor (cf. Prov. 30:8, 9). But
most poor people are anxious to get rich (e.g., look at the gambling craze that
has taken over America).
- In Bible
college, we were advised to start churches in middle-class areas because the
very rich and the very poor were both difficult to reach with the
- However, having said all that, let me emphasize that
there have been some wonderful Christians who were well-off. John Wesley and
George Whitefield had a wealthy friend named Lady Huntington. She used to tell
people that she was saved by an m. She explained that if I Corinthians 1:26 had read "not any wise, not any
noble are called," then she would not have been saved. But it does not say "not
any" but "not many."
"Not many mighty, not
many noble, are called."
- Next, James reminds his listeners that the rich
oftentimes oppress the poor and even drag them into court (2:6). Historically,
judges have given preferential treatment to those who were well
- Furthermore, when Christians do this, they blaspheme the
"worthy name" of our Lord (2:7). How absurd it is to toady to wicked people
because of their wealth!
- I remember back a few years ago when certain preachers
were defending boxer Mike Tyson during his rape trial. It was no surprise to
find out that he had given them a lot of money! And then after he was sent to
prison, Tyson converted to the Muslim religion.
WE OUGHT NOT TO DISCRIMINATE BECAUSE IT VIOLATES
"THE ROYAL LAW" (2:8, 9)
- James defines
"the royal law" as, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Leviticus 19:18
says, "thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
- In Matthew
5:43, our Lord said, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy
neighbour, and hate thine enemy."
- The Bible does
not say, "and hate thine enemy," but the scribes and Pharisees were guilty of
adding to God's Word.
- In Matthew
19:19, our Lord said, "Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love
thy neighbour as thyself."
- Our Lord said
in Matthew 22:37-40, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and
with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou
shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the
- In Mark 12:31, our Lord said,
"There is none other commandment greater than
- The apostle
Paul says in Romans 13:9, "Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false
witness, Thou shalt not
covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this
saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
- And Paul says
in Galatians 5:14, "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this;
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as
- This is why it
is called "the royal law."
- It is called the royal law because it is the king of all
laws, a summary of all the laws in the Bible pertaining to man’s relationship
with other men.
- Our Lord said, "There is no
greater commandment" (cf. Mark 12:31).
- This royal law gets down to where the rubber meets the
road. Too often our actions are based upon the wrong motives. Even Christians
can be selfish and worldly.
- That is why many Christians cater to the rich – they are
looking for some kind of reward, either financially, socially, or
- A prominent charismatic pastor told a preacher friend of
mine that he intentionally went after wealthy people.
- My wife and I heard about a missionary who did the same
thing. He deliberately targeted
- Some Christians and some churches ignore poor people
because they feel that there is nothing to gain by it because they can't give
- To this selfish behaviour, the Bible says: "Thou shalt
love thy neighbor as thyself" (James 2:8). One time, a man asked our Lord, "Who
is my neighbor?" and our Lord answered him by telling one of the most well-known
parables in the Bible (Luke 10:29-37).
- In other words, our neighbor is any person who has a
need that we can help to meet.
- To be a respecter of persons is a sin, and to commit
even one sin is a serious offense in the eyes of a holy God (2:9, 10).
- There was a
preacher in England by the name of Wilson Carlile who became friendly with King
Edward VII, the son and successor of Queen Elizabeth.
- Wilson Carlile
went to visit the king as he was dying, and as he stood by the king’s bedside,
King Edward said to him, "Carlile, tell everyone that kings and tramps need the