Is James Talking About?
James 2: 1 - 9
1 My brethren, do not hold
the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the
Lord of glory, with partiality. 2 For
if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel,
and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, 3 and you pay attention to the one wearing the
fine clothes and say to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say
to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my
footstool," 4 have you not shown
partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen
the poor of this world to be rich
in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the
rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? 7
Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called? 8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love
your neighbor as yourself," you do well; 9
but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as
Respect of persons
In Romans 2:11 we read:
For there is no partiality
The King James version uses the phrase "respect of
persons." This phrase is translated
from only one word in the original language [PROSOPOLEMPTES] which literally means "to take
face." It is properly rendered
"partiality," and it suggests the conclusion we draw, not from the
facts about a person, but from our supposition of who the person is. To illustrate this a little better, many
times a teacher who is trying to be fair, who is trying to guard against
"respect of persons" while grading tests, will block out the name of
the student until the grading is done.
In this way, they assure that the grade awarded is based on what the
student had done, not who did it. A
symbol of fairness in civil judgment we sometimes see today is a blindfolded
individual holding scales. The idea is
that judgment is made on the basis of facts without looking at how things may
appear at face value.
In 1 Timothy 5:21 we read:
I charge you before
God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these
things without prejudice, doing
nothing with partiality."
J. H. Thayer defines the word here translated
"prejudice" [PROKRIMA] as "an opinion formed before the facts
are known." Similarly, Vine's
Expository Dictionary defines this word as "pre-judging, preferring one
person, another being put aside, by unfavorable judgment due to
This is talking about making judgments of others before
we've taken the time to truly get to know them.
It also involves our action of excluding or shunning the people we so
judge. The English word "prejudice"
in the noun form (or "prejudging" as a verb) comes from the prefix
"pre," meaning "before", and the root "judicium"
means "judgment." Webster
defines it as "an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an
individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics."
Again in 1 Timothy 5:21, Vine's Expository Dictionary states
that the word here translated "partiality" [PROSKLISIS] "denotes
inclination." J. H. Thayer defines
the word as "an inclination or proclivity of mind, a joining the party of
one." Therefore, this involves not
only the exclusion of those we presume objectionable but also the formation of
cliques, parties, or groups which would exclude them. This spirit of partiality will cause us to
classify people in terms of the groups we see them in. We then assume all individuals in the group
behave the way most in the group do instead of judging them on their own
So, to summarize, "respect of persons,"
"partiality," or "prejudice" is a judgment about people
merely because of their status, situation, or other outward characteristic and
our exclusion or avoidance of them based upon the same.
Is James Not Talking About?
Prejudice, as we have established, is the formation of an
unfair opinion about someone without knowing all the facts, without
understanding their situation, or by assuming they are like their peers. Prejudice is not to be confused with a fair
assessment we make on the basis of a thorough investigation, inquiry, and
observation. The scriptures instruct us
to make these judgments about others. We
are told we can know people by their fruits and that we should shun Christians
who walk disorderly. This is righteous
judging, not pre-judging. Consider these
Matthew 7:15-21 …by their fruits you will know them…
Matthew 18:15-18 …every word may be established…
John 7:24 …judge with righteous judgment
Romans 16:15 …note those who cause divisions…and avoid them…
Moreover, prejudice, as we will see, is typically based on
appearances and situations people have no control over. For example, people are often prejudged by
their race, though they had no choice about this when they were born. This is different from someone who dresses
like a slob by choice when they can do better.
This actually involves a different kind of immoral behavior which will
be discussed in a separate lesson.
Additionally, we are not talking about having special
friends in our relationships. We may
naturally be drawn to certain people because of similar likes and dislikes and
become especially close to them. Jesus
had such special people in his life: John, Peter, Lazarus, Mary, and
Martha. However, this does not mean we
have disregard for others.
Basis Of Prejudice
Prejudice (pre-judgment) can be based on any number of
different personal characteristics. We
will examine some of these.
On the basis of financial status
This is the specific area James was talking about. How might this be demonstrated in your lives,
and can you think of any times when you have seen prejudice on the basis on how
much a person had or didn't have?
Zacheus Luke 19
On the basis of appearance
At this point, we are not talking about race; we are talking
about someone who just looks a little different. Maybe they are scarred, have a physical
deformity, or are handicapped. Maybe
they simply have some unusual mannerism that sets them apart. We have all known someone who may have been a
little bit different, may have looked a little bit different or acted a little
differently than others. And we have all
heard the jokes about those people.
Parents sometimes unwittingly give their children terrible examples by
cruelly ridiculing the appearance of
another person, or making fun of the way a person walks or talks. Most of the time parents will do it out of
earshot of the person they are ridiculing, but sometimes children don't bother
with that. The result is that a vicious
remark, maybe even made in a joking manner, is thrust into the heart of the
innocent person being ridiculed, and they are deeply hurt.
To illustrate, there was a group of adults standing around
after Sunday morning worship services, just talking in the back, and they began
to discuss the new preacher's wife. They
didn't pay any attention to the fact that their little kids were standing
around, too. At any rate, one lady said,
"Well, she's not ugly, but she's not a bit pretty either." Sure enough, that night at evening services
the first thing one little boy did who had heard what was said was to go up to
the preacher's wife and say, "So-and-so says you are not a bit
pretty." We cannot base our decisions
about another human being on their physical appearance.
On the basis of intelligence
Does how smart a person is affect how we view their
worth? Do we look down on people that we
don't think are as smart as we are, feel that they are "dumb" and in
some sense inferior because of their lack of intellectual attainment?
On the basis of gender
Many people today have the prejudice that women aren't as
good as men, or men aren't as good as women.
Though there are often notable emotional differences between men and
women and their God-ordained roles are different, men and women are on equal
standing before God. Consider the
admonition in 1 Peter 3:7 where we are both "heirs together of the grace
On the basis of age
Paul tells Timothy, "Let no one despise your
youth" (1 Timothy 4:12). Certainly,
there are times, especially among children, when the older do not get along
that well with the younger. Young Christians
need to work at getting through those difficult times. Therefore, the exclusive attitude of upper
classmen in school against lower classmen should not characterize the young
child of God.
On the basis of nationality
The apostle Paul instructed Titus to combat national
prejudice in the church where he was a preacher:
In verse 11 he states that some people were saying things
they ought not be saying. In verse 12 he
gives an example of such: "Cretans are always liars…" Even if most of the people of Crete were
liars, it was unfair to assess that all Cretans were so. This is prejudice, and in verse 13 he
instructs Titus to deliver a sharp rebuke.
On the basis of religion
Some groups hate Catholics, others hate Jews, still others
hate Muslims and on and on it goes. It
is wrong to view others with contempt just because of what they believe. (Understand that we can and should hate every
false way, but not the people themselves.)
In this passage, a beautiful story is told how Jesus broke
down the prejudicial barriers in His society of not only gender and nationality
but also religion as He spoke openly to a Samaritan woman at Jacob's well.
On the basis of race
Racial prejudice is not something new, it as been around for
a very long time and it did not begin with the white and black issue in the
United States. No greater example of
prejudice can be found than the prejudice that existed between the Jew and the
Gentile in the time of our Lord. It has
existed for some 1500 years. The Jews
considered the Gentiles as heathens and base barbarians. They were considered filthy and unclean.
Peter was a man who had been born and schooled as a
Jew. He also had this Jewish prejudice
toward all Gentiles. In fact, so strong
was it that the Holy Spirit gave Peter a direct vision, not once but three
times, ordering him to enter the house of Cornelius, a Roman centurion of
Caesarea and a Gentile.
Look now at Acts 10:34, 35.
The conclusion was so clear and so simple: "God is not a respecter
of persons." To even further
support Peter's conclusion, look at verses 44-48 to see what took place.
So strong was the racial prejudice of the Jews that when
Peter went back to his fellow Jewish Christians, they said, "You went in
to uncircumcised men and ate with them!" (Acts 11:3). In their eyes, that was a terrible thing to
do. However, Peter rehearsed the whole
event for them, told them how he had six witnesses with him, and how he had
arrived at the conclusion that he did.
God does not judge a man according to his race, color, or nationality,
and Peter learned that we better not do it either.
You would think that that should have been the end of it,
but it wasn't.
Some time later, Peter had been eating with the
Gentiles. When some Jews came, Peter
withdrew himself from the Gentiles, causing other Jewish Christians to do the
same. The reason Peter did this was
because he feared that some of the Jews who had come would not accept his
actions because of their prejudice against Gentiles. Paul stated that Peter was to be blamed, and
he rebuked him. Peter had sinned. He withdrew his company because of racial
prejudice and in so doing he was wrong.
Many Christians still have not learned this lesson. Prejudice was a sin then and it is a sin
now. Today we pray fervently for the
cause of Christ, sing loudly of the love of God, and you can still occasionally
hear Christians making comments that indicate that they still view a particular
race of people with prejudice, prejudging them just because of their skin
We must not be deceived.
God condemns racial prejudice of any kind. It is even more disturbing and distasteful
among Christians. If anybody should know
better, we should. Consider the
principles taught in these verses:
1 Timothy 2:6
What does this verse teach us? It tells us that Christ died for all men the
What does this passage tell us? The gospel is to be taken into all the world,
regardless of race, color, or nationality.
What does it say? It
says that we are all the same in the eyes of God: Jew and Greek, slave and
free, male and female. This is truly one
of the marvelous things about Christianity.
God doesn't care what color we are, what race we are, or what nationality
we are, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.
It is so marvelous to think that when men become reconciled to God, they
are also reconciled to one another with no room for prejudices of any kind.
Manifestations Of Prejudice
Prejudice (pre-judgment) manifests itself when we take
action on the suppositions we've made about others. This occurs in basically two different
ways. The first way is by excluding
those we have unfairly prejudged to be disdainful. As has already been noted, excluding others
socially because they are tall, short, skinny, overweight, fair-skinned, dark
skinned, diseased, or because they look different, talk different, or dress
different is wrong. Forming special
social groups to exclude those considered unworthy on these grounds is showing
partiality, and it's immoral. A
Christian will look at the inner man and judge the heart, not appearances (1
The second way prejudice is manifested is by preferring
those we have prejudged to be respectable.
This is the other side of prejudice.
Instead of negative feelings, unjustifiable positive feelings motivate
us to show partiality. For instance,
here's a person who is wealthy, wears nice clothes and drives a nice car – he
or she must be okay. Here's another
person who is good looking and popular – he or she must be alright. Here's a person who gets straight A's, is an
honor student, and has colleges lining up to have them come – they must be the
kind of person I want to be around. All
these are examples of pre-judgments based solely on externals; they are
examples of "respect of persons."
Though they are positively demonstrated, they are wrong just as are the
What To Do About It
Understand first that respect of persons (prejudice) is
sin. Remember James 2:8-10, "If you
really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your
neighbor as yourself,' you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin,
and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he
is guilty of all."
Here are some safeguards against prejudice:
Remember to practice brotherly love. The apostle John has much to say about love
in his epistles. Reading especially 1
John 4, we learn that to love God, we absolutely must not hold any ill will
toward our fellow man. Love and
prejudice cannot abide together in the same heart.
Romans 12:9, 10
1 Thessalonians 4:6-10
Determine to judge according to facts and not
John 7:24, Judge not according to the appearance, but judge
Respect of persons is a sin that is learned, children learn
it from their parents and from other children.
It is also true that judging righteous judgments must be learned as
Get to know people personally before forming an opinion
about them. Appearances can be
deceiving. This was the mistake Eli made
about Hannah, the mother of Samuel:
1 Samuel 1:13
Pay no attention to what people say about other people, but
talk directly to them instead. Ask them
what they think; then your assessment of them will be on the basis of fact, not
Have a proper evaluation of self
Romans 12:3, For I say, through the grace given unto me, to
every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought
to think: but to think soberly,
according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
He also spoke of a mistake that people make: of measuring
themselves by themselves and comparing themselves with themselves (2
Corinthians 10:12). The verdict is that
those people are not wise. In other
words, if we can see ourselves and others as we and they really are, then we
will neither unduly adore nor maliciously defame anyone.
Recognize the kinship of man
Since all of us are created in the image of God, and all of
us have common parents in Adam and Eve, we really have no reason to look down
on, or up at, any one.
Matthew. 7:12, Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men
should do to you, do ye even so to them:
for this is the law and the prophets.
If I desire to be treated with dignity by all, regardless of
my wealth or poverty, regardless of whether I am well known or unknown, whether
I am a member of a majority race or minority race, whether I am perfectly
formed physically or have a defect of some kind, then I must certainly treat
all others the same way.
Thoughts And Questions For Discussion
is the origin of our English word, "prejudice?"
in your own words the difference between making proper judgments and improper
judgments about other people.
you think of a specific incident where you were treated with prejudice? Briefly describe your feeling.
wisdom declares that both homosexuals and people of other races alike ought not
be considered differently. Review 1
Corinthians 15:33 and explain the difference.
Is it wrong to exclude others from your personal activities because of
their sinful behavior? Is it wrong to
exclude others from your personal activities because of their skin color?
does it mean to be created in the image of God?
What does that suggest about our fellow man?
Matthew 7:12. Does it mean "However
you do not want people to treat you, do not treat them?" Explain the difference.