Read James 1:9-11 and James 2:1-13.

As believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favouritism.” (James 2:1)

Having pointed out that true religion is "looking after the orphans and widows" and "keep(ing) oneself from being polluted by the world", James enlarges on this subject. (James 1:27) He describes how we, as true Christian believers, should behave towards one another. This is totally opposite to the way that people in the "world" (of non-believers) behave. He reminds us of where our focus should be: looking to our "glorious Lord Jesus Christ" rather than to other people. He pays particular attention to how we should behave towards those who look as if they have more or less than we have.

We are not "Christians" simply because we agree with what the bible says or the "sound doctrine" that derives from what it teaches. The natural outworking of our faith is what determines how we behave towards others - in just the way that God wants us to - through obedience to His word. We receive salvation by faith alone, but we "work out our salvation" (Philippians 2:12) by acting on our faith in obedience to God's word.


Jesus showed no favouritism and loved all people, regardless of whether they were rich or poor. We no longer have the right to live for ourselves because we belong to Jesus and represent Him in the world. So we have to respond to people just like He did, following the prompting of the Holy Spirit within us. If we "walk in the Spirit", we will not respond to people in the "flesh" - following the dictates and drives of our old nature. (1 Peter 4:2; Galatians 5:16) Jesus will enable us to be full of His love. (1 John 2:5) We shall be "slow to speak, quick to listen". (James 1:19) We shall have the ability to be honest without being offensive. (2 Corinthians 5:20-21) The fruit of the Holy Spirit will pour out of us and people will be drawn to Jesus. (John 15:5)

What is favouritism?

It means choosing or treating a person differently than another for the motive of personal gain.

Why do we show favouritism?

Here are some typical characteristics that prompt us to show favouritism:

  • Sinfulness; (James 2:9; Galatians 5:20)
  • Double standards; (Malachi 2:9)
  • Evil thinking; (Romans 12:3; James 2:5)
  • Pride; (Proverbs 13:10)
  • Judgmentalism; (James 2:2-3)
  • Manipulative behaviour; (James 2:6-7)
  • Prejudice; (James 2:3-4)
  • Misplaced loyalty. (1 Corinthians 4:6)

Favouritism comes from having the wrong attitude in our own heart. We take one look at people and immediately come to a conclusion regarding their spiritual condition, social status (clothes, money, house), education, life habits or past sin and we decide whether we want to associate with them again or not. We have emotions of jealousy, fear, self-righteousness, prejudice and competitiveness.

Favouritism in churches

In churches today, people are often chosen for a job because of their financial position, their natural ability or social influence, not because they have spiritual gifts to equip them. (Philippians 1:17) This so often causes problems because people believe themselves to be capable. (James 2:6) They do not seek to do the work through faith in God’s strength or with a servant heart. As a result, they may suffer burnout or be offended when the job is taken from them, because they were never meant to be doing it in the first place. (James 3:14,16) At the same time, the person who was meant to be in the position (and had a passion to serve God in that area) but, perhaps, did not have any formal qualifications or experience, is now going through a wilderness experience, wondering why he or she is not being used. This dishonours the name of Christ and enables the enemy to sow seeds of division in the body of Christ. (See 1 Corinthians 4:6-13.)

No one person should have any priority over another but all should regard others as better than themselves. (Romans 12:3) People who are called by God to do a job, either in a church or secular organisation, are "anointed" (chosen) by God Himself for that task. (1 John 2:26-27) They carry out their work under His authority and with all the resources that He supplies, through the Holy Spirit, for them to do that job and do it well. The end result can be far greater than that produced by any natural ability. Also, people who are "anointed" in this way can be humble, recognising that it is Christ who is at work in them and there is no reason to boast. (Ephesians 2:9)

Avoiding favouritism

We can avoid showing favouritism to people by paying attention to the following:

  • Putting our faith primarily in Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2:19)
  • Not thinking too highly of ourselves. (James 2:5; Matthew 5:3; Psalm 139:1-24)
  • Observing the royal law of love. (James 2:8; Galatians 5:13-15)
  • Treating all people equally. (Galatians 3:28)
  • Keeping an eye on our true wealth in heaven. (1 Timothy 6:17-19; Matthew 6:17-19)
  • Having the right priorities through hearts focused in worship. (John 4:23-24)
  • Treating others like Jesus did. (Matthew 18:35; Philippians 2:2-3)
  • Remembering where true wealth comes from. (Deuteronomy 8:18)
  • Valuing humility. (Psalm 25:9; James 4:6)
  • Not forgetting that we are all parts of one body. (Ephesians 4:25)
  • Recognising that we are all repentant sinners. (Romans 3:23)

Building unity

The cross is a great equaliser. We are all one because of Jesus’ death.

  • Our hostility against each other has been put to death.
  • We can all have access to the Father by the Holy Spirit.
  • We are no longer foreigners to God or each other.
  • We are all being built into a holy temple, with Jesus as the chief cornerstone.

When we meet together with others, if we do not lay aside what we see with our physical eyes and focus on Jesus with our spiritual eyes (allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to our spirits in the worship) then He will be grieved and we will miss out on a great blessing. When we come together with others, we must continually remember that we are all repentant sinners. We cannot afford to make distinctions between people because of their outward appearance. (James 2:5) God sees the poor in this world as being rich, because they are full of faith. Jesus said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)

These are people who may have few of this world’s possessions, but recognise their desperate need of salvation through Jesus Christ. It is so hard for someone who has an abundance of wealth to recognise that all they have comes from God and that it all belongs to Him. (Deuteronomy 8:18; Matthew 19:23-24; Mark 10:21-22) If we are going to favour anyone, it should be the poor and the powerless - following the example of Jesus. They may have very little money, but hold simple values that society as a whole disregards or belittles. We should not walk the same way as the "world" or welcome the values of a fallen and broken society into our churches.

Law and grace

In the body of Christ, we need constantly to be reminded that we are no longer under the judgment of God's law. (Galatians 3:13) If we choose to live as though we are, we put ourselves back under the law which binds. (Galatians 3:3-5) Having chosen to receive grace (the unmerited favour of God), we shall then have to obey the law to the letter; otherwise we will have broken it all. (James 2:11) All too often, people start by recognising that they have been saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8) but then slip back into living under rules and regulations. Not only that; they then condemn anyone else who is not following all the extra laws that they have concocted, just like the pharisees in Jesus' day. (Matthew 23:13-15) We only exist today (and walk with God) because of His amazing mercy. We must always look and see others through the eyes of mercy. (James 2:13)

So, from now on, we regard no-one from a worldly point of view.” (2 Corinthians 5:16)

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