James 2:1-13 (NIV)
2 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.
12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
A while back, while on the road for work, I found myself in a fast food restaurant to grab a bite to eat. I was in the middle of a 6 hour drive so I was looking to get in and out as quickly as possible. Shortly after I arrived, a bus full of school kids arrived and seemed hungry as ever. Luckily, I had arrived before them so I had already ordered my food and just avoided the rush. I was able to observe the action from my table as I was eating my lunch.
You should have seen the faces of the employees when this huge group of kids arrived. You would have thought that the kids had never eaten out before or that their sponsors were stuffing them in preparation for a week of medicore camp food. They ate and ate.
On the menu that day was a new, enticing concoction: the bacon sundae. I love bacon and I also love bacon so why not put the two together. The kids seemed intrigued, but each seemed afraid to actually order one. Finally, one kid was brave enough to order one. As soon as this young boy received his bacon sundae, the kids all gathered around him as if they were watching a science experiment that might blow up. They gagged in mock disgust as this young boy sampled the dessert. The other kids pronounced denouncing opinions of the sundae with great authority in their voices. They spoke their judgments with maniacal glee. It was quite a scene for just a sundae.
Playfully poking fun about a bacon sundae is one thing, but judging others about the weightier matters of life is a completely other matter. It’s important to take care what and how we judge. As recipients of God’s great mercy, Christians should be prayerfully and particularly mindful about the judgments we make.
Bono, the lead singer from U2, once said in an interview with Jim Daly, “The hypocrisy of the human heart is a remarkable thing. And the piety and judgmentalism of the faithful can be very annoying.” Those are some pretty strong and condemning words, but it is so often true. Those who have faith should know better than to do this, but sadly, they seem to be leading the charge in judging others.
Biblical truth guides our knowledge of what’s right and wrong. Biblical mercy and prayerful discernment should temper how and when we offer judgement to others. Exercising a Christian attitude means making judgements based on biblical morality without being judgmental and self-righteous.
Today’s passage, found in the book of James, talks about this very thing. It talks about how we should not judge people based on their outward appearance, but rather on the character found within their souls. We should not show favoritism and it is really not our place to judge the sins of others. The only One who has a right to judge is God. We all get individually judged on our lives after we leave this world and that is the only judgement that really matters. That is reason enough to leave the judging part up to God. Our only job, when it comes to those around us, is to love them with the very best of our ability.
Take a few minutes today to think about some of the ways that God has shown mercy towards you in your life. Think about times you were forgiven when you probably didn’t deserve it. Use these thoughts when you think about your dealings with others and hopefully this will help you to be more merciful to others.
Can you recall any instances in your own life when you might have come across as self-righteous and judgmental towards others? It can be an easy thing to do, but the long-term consequences of doing so can be very devastating.
Don’t be so quick to judge others. Remember, you have plenty of things that could easily be judged as well. We are all flawed, but despite this fact, God is still willing to forgive us. Maybe that should be lens we see others through.