Friday

“My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favouritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?” (v. 1)

James 2:1-7 Friday 3 February 2017

Psalm: Psalm 99

The Methodist Church's Bible Month this year focuses on theletter of James. It takes place in June, although churches andcircuits may choose a different time if that is more convenient.For more information (including training and resources), goto www.methodist.org.uk/biblemonth.

Background

The letter of James now addresses an aspect of human nature towhich few are immune - judging by appearances and favouring therich and powerful. The connection is also developed between howpeople behave and what they believe. Indeed, in the opening versethe link could not be set out much more bluntly; your behaviour issuch that it begs the question whether you believe at all!

It is not difficult to detect the stinging rebuke containedwithin this question - and no doubt it has not just been theoriginal recipients of the letter who have squirmed with discomforton reading it. How very easy it is look up to wealthy peopledressed in all their finery - and look down on poor people,possibly in their dirty and dishevelled clothes. Whilst it is truethat as a society we have become less deferential over the lastgeneration or two, those who live in poverty continue to bemarginalised and undervalued.

Whilst this is reprehensible in any community, in the Church itstrikes at the very heart of what Christians purport to believe.God has no favourites - or if any 'bias' can be detected at all itis to the poor, in their suffering and struggle - "Blessed are thepoor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" ' (Matthew 5:3). And, "Has not God chosen the poorin the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdomthat he has promised to those who love him?" (v. 5).

What a challenge it is to us to discover that in those areas ofour country which government statistics define as most deprived theChurch is much less prevalent. Are we in danger of 'dishonouringthe poor' (verse 6) through our structures as well as in ourpersonal relationships? Both are unacceptable and challenge ourpractice - and fundamentally question what we believe about God.Actually it is more than that, if, in this regard, we have "madedistinctions among [y]ourselves, and become judges with evilthoughts" (v. 4) we undermine and discredit all that we proclaim.The most powerful evidence in support of what we believe is what wedo.


To Ponder

  • If reading this passage makes you feel uncomfortable, reflecton why and what you might do about it.
  • In what ways does your church or the wider Church show'favouritism' and how might this be addressed?
  • What does the way you live your life - or the life and activityof your church - reveal about what you believe about God?
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