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Chosen to be Rich [2-12-23]

Updated: Mar 11, 2023


February 12, 2023

James 2:1-13

“Chosen to be Rich”


No, this is not a prosperity gospel sermon. I have not gone over to the dark side.


There are three things we’re going to learn from these first thirteen verses of James 2.


First, we’re going to learn about God’s character in dealing with people.


Then, we’re going to learn God’s expectations of us when relating to people who are similar to us and different from us.


Here’s James 2:1-13:

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.


It's always a good thing to start with the character and attributes of God.


One of God’s attributes we rarely talk about is impartiality. A simple Bible word search will turn up numerous passages attesting to His impartiality. Probably the best-known expression of God’s impartiality is from 1 Samuel 16:7. This references God sending the prophet Samuel to replace Saul as king:

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

This notion feeds a beautiful truth of Biblical faith, and it’s something you might want to write down:

GOD DOESN’T CALL THE EQUIPPED…GOD EQUIPS THE CALLED.

Impartiality is one huge way God is very much unlike us. We all fall into partiality, at times. Some are partial some of the time, and some are partial most of the time. I doubt anyone is partial all the time. Likewise, I doubt no one never shows partiality.


We tend to put people into hierarchical categories. It’s like a food pyramid, but for people. We put some people higher or lower than other people. It could be their looks. Could be something about their physicality. Could be how stylish or trendy their clothes are. It could be the car they drive or the house they live in or the neighborhood that house is in. Do they have granite countertops? Sometimes it’s driven by ethnicity. Or financial status. Or job. We even categorize people by personality traits. For example, my lovely wife and I are homebodies. If someone likes parties or big dinner gatherings or festive social events, they might pass us over as potential friend material. Our motto is, “The person who said, ‘Go Big or Go Home’ grossly underestimates our desire to stay home.” We also like this one – “Having plans sounds like a good idea until you have dress up and leave the house.” Some partiality is fairly harmless. We’re partial to staying at home, and after hearing this, you might not be impartial to inviting us anyplace! In the little things, we all sometimes show partiality. No big deal. But all of these things are non-issues with God. Fame, fortune, social status, introvert, extrovert…none of it matters to God. So guess what? Most of it shouldn’t matter to us, either.


Here's a beautiful point where language helps us understand meaning. In verse four, James says, “Have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” In 1:6, he writes, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” The word translated distinctions in verse four is from the same root word translated doubting in 1:6. The connection with both is that of making a distinction. In the first case, people entertain doubt because they waver between two options, trying to figure out what is best. In other words, unbelief occupies a more esteemed position. In verse four, people discriminate because they make the wrong choice in dealing with different kinds of people. We can see how this relates to doubting because making distinctions shows a lack of believing God’s command not to do it.


Scripture admonishes us to not show partiality. Martin Luther King was expressing Biblical truth when he said, “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” That is James all day long. Social status, ethnicity, educational attainment or ability, clothing, economic status…all of these are insignificant to God. It has always been off-putting to me when clergy who have attained a Doctor of Ministry advanced degree insist on going by “Dr.” or “The Reverend Dr.” No one should care. These kinds of status claims ought to be insignificant to us because they are insignificant to God.


Building on King’s paraphrase of James 2, here’s something else you might want to write down:

GOD DEALS PURELY WITH THE SOUL.

And why is it so obviously easy to affirm this truth? Because God’s impartiality has nothing to do with us but it has everything to do with what God has done. In Jesus Christ, God has chosen to save us from our sin. We are the elect of God. It was His sovereign choice to save us in Jesus Christ. James says, while poor in the eyes of the world, we are made rich in the sight of God.


Here's how 1 John 4:10-12 puts it:

  • “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”

The full meaning of this passage becomes clearer when we define the word propitiation. It means, “’Averting the wrath of God by the offering of a gift.’ It refers to the turning away of the wrath of God as the just judgment of our sin by God’s own provision of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.”

That’s why it is not only stupid, but unbiblical to show people preferential treatment in the church. It’s bad enough that it happens in our culture. But here, in the Body of Christ, God’s electing grace is the great equalizer. To paraphrase what Paul says in Galatians, in Jesus Christ, there is neither slave nor free, Jew nor Greek, male nor female, rich nor poor, for we are one in Christ Jesus our Lord. So how we act toward people…how we treat people…how we look upon people…is a test of our faith. Do we truly understand the heart of God? {There’s a great Zach Williams song with the line, “There’s only love in the heart of God.”} If we do, then there’s no place for favoritism in the church and in the life of a believer.


We have been chosen to be rich in Christ. And I’m not talking about status or money or fame or educational attainment or prestige or looks or anything the superficiality of the world says matters. Our position in Christ is more important than anything else. Because, at the end of your life, what will be the only thing that matters? Whether you truly believe that in Christ, God has chosen to save you. That is the only thing that matters. Death, therefore, becomes the great equalizer. As Jesus affirmed to us in Luke 6:20:

And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”

Put another way, we read in Matthew 5:3:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

This simply means that we recognize we are dependent on God for all things. Those who humbly fall at the foot of the cross know there is nothing in all creation that can earn them favor with God or separate them from God. In Christ, God has chosen us to be rich. So when we die, all that will matter is if we have been living out of that truth. “Faith without works is dead.”


I love how one pastor sums up three great Biblical truths:

  • JUSTIFICATION: EXTERNALLY NEW - God declares us righteous.

  • SANCTIFICATION: INTERNALLY NEW - When God changes our heart, we grow in obedience to His Word.

  • GLORIFICATION: ETERNALLY NEW

We hear James anchoring everything he’s going to say in these first thirteen verses of chapter two in that third point of glorification. I love the literal translation of verse one:

“BROTHERS OF ME NOT WITH PARTIALITY HOLD THE FAITH OF THE LORD OF US JESUS CHRIST – OF GLORY.”

The word translated partiality means to judge someone by their face; by appearances; to exalt someone based on nothing but what appears on the outside. Outward appearance or status or rank gives no clue about who Christ has chosen to be eternally in his glorious presence. Therefore… therefore…and here will come the command…you cannot practice partiality in one hand while expecting to be glorified with Christ in the other. Partiality is absolutely inconsistent with being a totally devoted follower of Jesus Christ. Are we together on that?


“But wait,” some might object, “I thought I was judged by my faith in Christ.” And how right they’d be, except for one important piece, which is why James is included in Scripture. Faith is manifested through works. So how we live our lives matters to God. If God looks at your life and sees that you handle trials in a God-honoring way…that you handle temptation in a God-honoring way…that you are generous in a God-honoring way…and that you didn’t show favoritism as a pattern in your life…then all of these go into a pile that is attributed to you as works giving evidence of faith.


Here's how Paul puts it in Ephesians 2:10:

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

You can’t miss the congruity between Paul and James. The pattern of your life is good works that God is producing in you. That is such a positive affirmation. Good works give evidence of your salvation. Knowing that Jesus Christ took the punishment for your sin upon himself on the cross brings about obedient living. How could we not do what is pleasing to God knowing what He did for us? Of course, we will have times of disobedience in our lives. But what is the pattern? More often than not – most of the time in most places in most situations and circumstances, saved people are aiming for good works. It is a pattern evident in their lives. That’s why Covenant Church is such a beautiful place of joy and grace and love and mercy…because we know that God has chosen us to believe and He’s given us faith in His Son Jesus Christ, and we love Jesus, so we love each other

and our community. There’s nothing more beautiful than that.


Let’s pray:

FATHER, HELP US TO BE LIKE YOU ARE, SHOWING NO PARTIALITY TO ANYONE, FOR ANY REASON, IN ANY CIRCUMSTANCE. THANK YOU THAT, IN CHRIST, YOU HAVE CHOSEN US TO SHARE IN THE ETERNAL RICHES OF YOUR HEAVENLY GLORY. REFRESH AND RENEW OUR COMMITMENT TO LOVE IN THE WAY YOU LOVED US. WE WERE UNWORTHY OF THAT LOVE, YET, STILL, YOU LOVED US. MAY WE LOVE THE WAY YOU LOVED, WITHOUT REGARD FOR EXTERNAL ISSUES, BUT ONLY FOR THE SAKE OF OTHERS WHO NEED TO BE LOVED. YOU REACHED DOWN TO US IN LOVE…MAY WE REACH OUT TO OTHERS IN LOVE. MAY WE BE MORE LIKE CHRIST. MAY WE BE ACCUSED OF BEING FRIENDS TO SINNERS. WE PRAY IN THE NAME OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, WHOM WE LOVE. AMEN.



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