The Evilness of Favoritism: James 2:1–13

Imagine with me that you’re serving on the welcoming committee at church. You notice a woman walk through the door who looks like she’s just stepped off the pages of a fashion magazine. 

She’s sporting the latest styles. Her makeup is flawless. With each step, she exudes confidence, influence . . . money. You can’t help but feel impressed. You welcome her joyfully and point her to one of the best seats in the house. 

A couple minutes later, another woman enters the building wearing a stained sweatshirt a couple sizes too big. Her hair is wet with grease, and her smile reveals more missing teeth than present. 

You think twice before shaking her hand, reminding yourself to sanitize your hands as soon as she turns her back. She smells as if she hasn’t showered in weeks, so you point her to the bench in the back. You hope she won’t distract too many people from worshipping God. 

After the service begins, you take your seat and begin singing with gusto to God. But unbeknownst to you, God is not pleased with your “worship.” 

He has seen your thoughts, and while you don’t think twice about the distinctions you’ve made between these two women, God has one word for your thinking: evil

Why Is Favoritism Evil? 

The apostle James paints this scenario in James 2:1–13. It can be a bit shocking to hear that making distinctions between believers based on external factors is a sin. We tend to do it regularly and almost subconsciously: 

  • Sizing others up
  • Comparing others against worldly standards
  • Playing favorites 
  • Asking, “What’s in it for me?” 

But our disgusting sin of partiality must be resisted and repented of. Why? James lists many reasons in his letter; here are just a few: 

  1. Our God shows no partiality. None. He chooses those who are poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of His kingdom (v. 5). He shares His glory and riches with them, not judging them based on outward appearance or “success,” but on whether or not they cling to Christ. 
  2. Our God is “the Lord of glory” (v. 1). We cloud His glory when we judge fellow believers on anything more or less than their precious faith in Jesus. 
  3. Our God is King, and He has a “royal law”: to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. When we show partiality, we break His law. And by failing in this way, we have become accountable for breaking all God’s law (vv. 8–10).

The consequences are serious, even for believers. By forgetting God’s mercy toward us and withholding mercy from the poor, we will face His judgment (vv. 12–13).

Should I Only Be Friends with Poor People? 

Does this mean you’re sinning if you build a close friendship with that beautiful woman from church? Not necessarily. (She, too, is your neighbor whom you are commanded to love as yourself.) 

Does this mean you’re super spiritual if you go out for coffee with a woman who doesn’t seem fit in at church? Not necessarily. (You could be doing it out of self-righteous self-love rather than out of love for God and her.)

I cannot know your heart motives. Search them yourself. Ask God to help you look past all this world values to what He values. Take every opportunity to love each person He places in your path as you love yourself.

Combating the Sin of Favoritism during Social Distancing 

I realize we’re likely not meeting with other believers each Sunday due to the current health crisis. But even in this period of social distancing, we need to search our hearts for the evil sin of partiality. Ask yourself:

  • Who do I text or call during this time, and who do I overlook or ignore? (Allow faces to play through your head. Who are people you would seat at the back of the church?) 
  • What social media accounts do you follow, and why? Do you feel better about yourself by surrounding yourself with “influential” people? Spend a minute confessing your evil thoughts and sin of partiality to God. 

As you click off this post and move on with your day, turn these truths over and over in your head, and interact with God about them: When you were poorly dressed in rags of self-righteousness, God covered you with His royal robes of perfect righteousness. He did not choose you based on anything that made you stand out above others. He welcomed you because of His great mercy. 

Go and do likewise. 

Did you discover God’s Truth today?

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About the Author

Paula Marsteller

Paula Marsteller

Paula Marsteller is a gifted communicator with a tenacious commitment to Scripture coupled with a compassionate, loving voice. She enjoys connecting with and welcoming people so they feel safe, valued, and deeply loved. People describe her as “wise,” “relatable,” and "fiercely gentle."

God has captured Paula’s heart, and she is passionate about sharing life-changing, gospel truths through the lens of her everyday, ordinary life as a wife, mom, neighbor, and church member. Paula is an insatiably curious, lifelong learner, so beware: she tends to ask a lot of questions of everyone near her (being careful not to overwhelm).
She served with Revive Our Hearts for fifteen years and wrote Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On Her Journey from Neediness to Freedom. You can catch her writing on PaulaWrites.com.

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