My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, "You sit here in a good place," while you say to the poor man, "You stand over there," or, "Sit down at my feet," have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
I read these verses and think "What's the big deal about riches? Why are they so evil?" Especially when most of the Old Testament shows riches and material blessing being the rewards of obedience, and the New Testament shows over and over again God promising rewards to those who follow hard after him. But there I think is the crux of the matter. God pours out blessing on us when we pursue Him for His own sake. But when we turn and pursue God's gifts or pursue God for his gifts sake, is that not sin?
Money is not evil in itself, but the pursuit of it leads to all kinds of evils. Placing faith in material things to save me is idolatry. Accumulating wealth will not protect my health or my family or my life; it will not make me happy or satisfy my soul, because I was made for something greater than things. I was made to be a pursuer of God.
So money could be a stand in for a whole host of things that I try to put in place of God when I am in difficulty. I seek comfort in my husband, my family, my friends, food, quiet, rest, games, coffee, leisure, people's good opinion of me...
Ah, is this what James is driving at? Showing partiality is another form of idolatry. Either because we place certain people up on pedastles to be admired or because we want something from them (ie, my opinion/worship becomes a kind of currency: I bestow it on you and you thank me with some kind of favor). So it would make sense that we would be partial to the rich versus the poor; the mighty versus the weak, the beautiful versus the ugly; the influential versus the reserved. In any group of people, bestowing my attention on one to the exclusion of others either makes them god to me or makes them a source of good to me. And both places are places that God alone will have, must have, in my life!
Oh Father God,
Please keep my heart free from idols. I was created and saved to worship you and you alone, not money r fame or power or people or even the good things you have given me. Thank you for the gifts you have graciously given: home, family, safety, health, financial stability, a husband who works hard and serves my family, a healthy and happy baby boy, a strong church where the Word is preached, a free nation where we can worship unafraid....these and many many more are all things that I do not deserve. But I am grateful for them.
Please help me maintain a heart of gratitude, not one of idolatry or entitlement. And keep me from elavating certain friends over others for what they can do for me. Help me to live on the level ground at the foot of the Cross.