Today’s Thought: Does a person’s status make a difference in how I treat him or her? (Hint: Don’t say “no” too quickly.)
You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (James 2:8)
One of the most quoted verses of the Bible is, love your neighbor as yourself. It’s fairly common to see it used in charity campaigns as a way of reminding us that “love” is an action word! To love our neighbor means giving, helping, donating. But in the Letter of James, Chapter 2, we’re asked to think about the various ways we show love to all of our neighbors and consider how… just maybe… we might love some neighbors more than others.
James throws out a barrage of questions in verses 1-7, hitting hard from the very first verse: Do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? ‘Cause I don’t think you do, he seems to be saying! James points out that those showing outward signs of wealth—fine clothes and gold rings—have been given preferential seating at gatherings, while the poor are left to stand or sit at the feet of others!
Have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges? James’s rage and exasperation are palpable. I can feel his angry disbelief of how these people are acting. Yet all I can say for myself is… (gulp)… “Guilty.”
Sure, I’ve never told anyone to sit at my feet! But, I know—oh HOW I know—that I’ve been friendlier, kinder, and more considerate of people I work with who rank higher on the organizational chart. It pains me to say it, but it’s true. I can’t even tell you how or when I started doing that. But, like the audience James is writing to, I am guilty of showing partiality to those with worldly status.
I’m reminded of George Orwell’s words in his allegorical novella, Animal Farm, spoken by a government official explaining his favoritism shown to the elite: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” As much as I’d like to distance myself from that kind of “doublespeak” (from Orwell’s other dystopia, 1984), it’s clearly been simmering under the surface of my everyday interactions–without me ever questioning it.
Do I with my acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? It’s time to match my love of ALL my neighbors with the faith I profess in Christ.
Old Testament: “You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:17-18)
New Testament: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” [Jesus] said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:36-39)