My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favouritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, "Have a seat here, please," while to the one who is poor you say, "Stand there," or, "Sit at my feet," have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonoured the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?
You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, "You shall love your neighbour as yourself." But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
I will bless the Lord at all times,
his praise always on my lips;
in the Lord my soul shall make its boast.
The humble shall hear and be glad. (R./)
Glorify the Lord with me.
Together let us praise his name.
I sought the Lord and he answered me;
from all my terrors he set me free. (R./)
Look towards him and be radiant;
let your faces not be abashed.
This poor man called; the Lord heard him
and rescued him from all his distress. (R./)
Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" And they answered him, John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." He asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Messiah." And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."
No one can look at a cross without remembering the sacrificial death of Jesus. Yet the cross is prominent in our churches and is worn as the sign of our victory over sin and despair, as the pledge of our future life with God.
James helps us examine if we have learned the universal meaning of the cross. Our faith must not allow any favouritism. We don't estimate people's worth by their wealth, power, prestige or social rank. Those are the corrupt standards of the world. Under the blessing of the cross each one is valued as a human being created by God in the divine likeness.
James is against all servile deference and class distinction. He will not have us bow to rich, fashionably dressed people, while despising those in shabby clothes, for in God's eyes we are all poor and naked, beautiful and equal. Like Jesus, James is a great egalitarian, urging us to treat others with goodness and respect, regardless of rank.
Within his critique of favouritism, James cites the maxim: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself," which was named by Jesus as the second commandment and repeated by Paul in Romans (13:9). Such ideals are hard to put into practice, just as is the call to carry the cross with Jesus. Little wonder that Peter argued with Jesus about the need for the cross, until he was sternly told, "Out of my sight, you satan!" Jesus' words on that occasion resonate with what James said today, "You are not judging by God's standards but by human standards."
With so much dissension and racism in our world, it's clear that not all are yet willing to believe that "Everyone's the same in the good Lord's sight." But as followers of Jesus, we are called not only to believe that maxim, but to act upon it.