Moving on to the second chapter of the book of James. What I am immediately confronted with is the idea of "favoritism." James gives the example of showing favor to a rich man who enters church - giving him the best seat and catering to him - while treating the poor man who enters with no respect. Hmmm, how does this apply to me. Well, if I am completely honest with myself, there is a segment of the population that I "prefer" to minister to. There are people who are easier for me to love on than others, and I confess that I tend to spend more of my time ministering to those folks than to those who are more challenging. Why do I do this? Is it because I am getting something in return? Am I discriminating in my acts of service by choosing to serve in ways that do not cause me discomfort? Hmmm, perhaps both at times.
I am reminded that we are to "love our neighbor as ourself." How do I love myself? If I was down and out, destitute, strung out, addicted; if I had cheated on my husband and was a social outcast; if I was friendless and socially awkward; or if I had every material blessing conceivable and found myself looking down on others; if I had the perfect physique and used it as a weapon to get what I wanted; if I prided myself on my extensive education and felt that I didn't need to rely on anyone or anything to achieve what I wanted in life... wouldn't I still be me? Wouldn't I still hope to be loved? Wouldn't I still, deep down, crave someone who would speak the truth in love to me and be a REAL friend? Yes!! And if I love myself in that way - no matter what moral, physical, financial, or emotional state I might find myself in (but for the grace of God go I) - shouldn't I be willing to love my neighbor as myself and be willing to minister to others who, outwardly, appear to be lost causes, who will obviously require more "effort" to meet their needs... YES! James says in Chapter 2, Verse 1 (NASB)- "My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism." I pray that this way of looking at the world and looking at myself is something that I can hold on to - that God would weave it into the fabric of my thoughts in such a way that I would be quickly convicted when I find myself deciding who I should and shouldn't share my faith, love and acts of selfless service with based on my own finicky, favoritism-prone heart. If not for my Savior, I would have nothing to offer anyway - and I do believe He loves my neighbor every ounce as much as He loves me. I'm humbled, Lord. Help me to serve the least of these and the greatest of these in equal measure, as unto You.
Next up on the study docket - the remainder of James chapter 2 - FAITH AND WORKS!