There are times when I read the Bible that I love it and it’s great and I like what it says and it’s really easy to read because it brings me comfort and assures me that I’m on the right path. There are other times when I read it that it’s difficult because it points out my flaws, it makes me uncomfortable. This morning was one of those uncomfortable times. As I was reading James 2 this morning, these verses jumped out at me:
“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose someone comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor person in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the one wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the one who is poor, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:1-4 TNIV)
James is talking here about socioeconomic favoritism. In the community to whom James is writing his letter, there are people who are giving different treatment to those who are more well-off than to those who are poor. James is clear that this simply is not right, because there is a richness in faith that transcends socioeconomic status, wealth, level of education, etc.
I write this as one who lives and works in one of the wealthiest counties in Tennessee, one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, and thereby probably one of the wealthiest counties in the world. To be perfectly and painfully honest, if James is making a claim or a charge against people like us in regards to our favoritism towards “fine” things and well-to-do people, I’m afraid to say I think we’re often guilty as charged. My sense is that the Kingdom of God probably doesn’t look a whole lot like my community, with our “utopian” lack of cultural, economic, educational, or even religious diversity. They call this “the bubble” for a reason. It makes me uncomfortable to read this, to write this, and to think about this.
If this is the case, if we’re guilty as charged by James, what needs to change? What do we need to address in our communities of faith and how can we do it? I don’t have the answers, but I do have a discomfort and a strong conviction that we need to be asking the questions.