Yesterday’s reading from Proverbs revealed that measuring people’s worth by their wealth is an illusion. God created all of us, and our common humanity can bring us together. Today’s reading from James illustrates a particular situation in which we may confuse wealth with importance. James chastises favoritism based on economic status. He writes with a parable: The host provides the best seats to those who have wealth while simultaneously telling those who have no financial resources to “stand there” or “sit at my feet,” automatically placing them on the lowest rung in the group.
James argues that the leaders making distinctions about people based on wealth indicates that they have become “judges with evil thoughts.” One valuable quality that a judge in a court of law needs to have is the ability to distinguish between facts, between arguments, and between people. The ability to distinguish truth from falsehood, or good from bad arguments, is critical to a judge’s fulfilling his or her role. When, however, a judge distinguishes facts or arguments based on random or trivial details, then he or she can become dangerous.
And so it is with James’s hearers. Because they decide people’s worth based on their wealth, they have become like dangerous judges. Doing so, of course, causes division within the group but, even more so, calls into question whether the leaders actually believe in Christ, who, as James points out, has called all of us to honor the poor. While the rich find ways to oppress and blaspheme, God chooses to bless the poor with the inheritance of the kingdom of God.
Lord, help us to know that wealthier does not mean worthier as we seek to love all your children. Amen.
It has become an uncomfortable subject for many in our society, but God does have ethical standards. The author of Proverbs declares that those who act unjustly, particularly if they oppress the poor, will provoke God’s judgment. The psalmist repeats the refrain that God blesses the righteous but is not pleased with those who choose a consistent lifestyle of rebellion against God. James challenges us practically on this point. Do we judge people by their wealth or status? This is not from God. Truth faith shows no partiality and prompts action. Jesus models this in Mark when he heals two Gentiles. Jews and Gentiles generally remained separate (an ancient form of racism), but Jesus did not discriminate based on their ethnicity. He cared only about their hearts.
• Read Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23. How has God shown you that there is no difference between persons who are rich and persons who are poor?
• Read Psalm 125. When have you seen righteousness in someone your church or community has labeled “wicked”?
• Read James 2:1-17. How do your works support your faith in God?
• Read Mark 7:24-37. God calls us to love all our neighbors, no matter their abilities or place of origin. How can you be a good neighbor to those your community has excluded?
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