OVERCOMING PREJUDICE – James 2:1-13

Adolf Hitler, Bible sermon, black vs. white, class distinctions, discrimination, Epistle of James, Epistle of James sermon, favoritism, James, Mahatma Ghandi, partiality, prejudice, religion, sermon: James chapter 1, Uncategorized

INTRODUCTION:

It is impossible to judge another person’s motives.  And yet we have a tendency to do just that.  We also cannot determine the heart of a person in a first-time encounter.  Initial impressions may not always be right because we all have some built-in prejudices.

I.  THE PRINCIPLE (Verse 1)

In James 2:1,  James is saying, “Faith in God and partiality are incompatible.”  They don”t go together.  The term “favoritism”‘ in verse 1 comes from two Greek words, combined to mean “to receive by face”, and has the thought of accepting or welcoming someone by face value alone.  The term, “favoritism”, is found in only three other New Testament passages, and in each instance it is made clear that God does not respect faces.  He judges by the heart. The Lord Jesus wasn’t prejudiced.  In Luke 14:12 it says of Jesus, “And He went on to say to the one who had invited Him, ‘When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and repayment come to you.  But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you;  for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’ ”  Even Jesus’ enemies knew that Jesus was not prejudiced.  In Matthew 22:16 the Herodians said to Jesus, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one, for you are not partial to any.” Prejudice can run so deep that it sometimes takes a tragedy to make one see how wrong it is to discriminate on the basis of physical differences.  An article in the newspaper several years ago told of a truck driver who learned the hard way how bigoted he was.  He had no use for blacks – until one saved his life.  It was shortly after l a.m. when his tanker truck flipped over and burst into flames.  A week later he lay in his hospital bed crying openly, for he was looking into the face of a black man who had used his own coat and his bare hands to smother the flames of what had been a human torch.  Needless to say, this was one white man who, with tears of appreciation, learned to see through skin color.

II.  THE PRINCIPLE ILLUSTRATED (verses 2-4)

In verse 2, James is talking about two people:  one rich and the other poor.  The words “gold ring” literally mean “gold-fingered”, suggesting that this man was wearing many gold rings.  Also his clothes were made of the finest materials.  The usher was faced with a choice:  where should he seat these two people.  Matthew 23:6 helps us better understand this situation by telling us that there were “chief seats” in the synagogues,  The Pharisees loved these chief seats which must have been located down in front because they  could enter the synagogue in their elegant robes and march toward the front, calling attention to themselves.  Faced with this decision, the usher based his decision on externals only. James says in verse 4 that this is discrimination, and their motives are evil.  If there is one place where class distinctions should break down, it is in a place of worship.  Distinctions such as age, color, money, status, rank, size, and clothing should mean nothing.  Jesus said to the multitude in John 7:24, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”

III.  THE PRINCIPLE EXPLAINED (verses 5-11)

In verses 5-11, James gives three arguments why prejudice is wrong.  First, prejudice is not true of God.  He says in verse 5, “Did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom?”  Whether we are physically rich or poor, unless we recognize our spiritual poverty and our need for a Savior, we will never experience the riches of faith in Christ, and receive an eternal inheritance from God.  Secondly, God isn’t concerned about wealth or poverty, but about the condition of a person’s soul.  The people James is writing to were exalting the rich, and yet it was these rich people who were the very ones who were causing their pain and injury.  Thirdly, in verses 8-11, James is saying that prejudice is sinful because it is against the Scriptures.  One of the laws God gave to Moses was, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Showing partiality is a violation of that law.

Children in England used to play a game called “Saints and Sinners”.  A hoop was set up at a certain distance, and the children were given ten arrows each.  The object of the game was to aim them at the hoop.  If anyone shot ALL of the arrows through  the hoop, he was proclaimed a “saint”.  If he missed just once, he was called a “sinner”.  If he missed with all ten arrows, he was no greater sinner than if he missed with only one!  One error was as bad as ten!  That was the rule of the game.  The same is true spiritually.  The Lord Jesus never “missed the mark”, but kept God’s law perfectly.  All others have sinned and come short of God’s standard.  Therefore there is no excuse for prejudice because we are all equally sinners.

Let me share with you two stories about what has happened in the lives of two people as a result of the prejudice they experienced from Christians.  A little boy named Joseph had polio.  Someone finally took him to Sunday school, but the teacher neglected him.  Later the young people ridiculed him and then avoided him because of his crippled condition.  As a result, he dropped out of the class with a hatred for the church and the Lord Jesus Christ.  He did, however, continue his studies in school.  When he finally earned his doctorate from Heidelberg University, a man slipped his arm around him, saying, “Joseph, I think a lot of you;  you and I could do much together.  The young man responded warmly to this attention and encouragement, and in time Joseph Goebbels became the propaganda minister for that man:  Adolf Hitler!  Many wondered afterward what would have happened if that Sunday school teacher had shown love to this apparently unwanted individual, and had led him to the Lord.  If the young people had befriended this needy person instead of ridiculing him, he might have become a minister for Christ instead of the Nazis.

Another case is a terrible incident that occurred in the life of Mahatma Gandhi.  This man, who later gained world attention, says in is autobiography that in his student days he was truly interested in the Bible.  Deeply touched by reading the gospels, he seriously considered becoming a convert.  Christianity seemed to offer the real solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India.  One Sunday he went to a nearby church to attend services.  He decided to see the minister and ask for instruction in the way of salvation, and enlightenment on other doctrines.  But when he entered the sanctuary, the ushers refused to give him a seat and suggested that he go and worship with his own people.  He left and never came back.  “If Christians have cast differences also”, he said to himself, “I might as well remain a Hindu”.  He became one of the most famous people in the history of India and was a champion for the civil rights movement there, but he was never given  the opportunity to experience the freedom of becoming a child of God because of the prejudice of a man who claimed to be a minister of Christ.

IV.  THE PRINCIPLE APPLIED (verses 12-13)

One of the tests of the genuineness of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is how we treat other people.  Can we pass the test?  We all show prejudice at times, don’t we?  Are there people you won’t talk to, or even acknowledge their presence, because of racial, social, economic, or educational factors?  Are there others who treat you that way, and you are following their example?

Are we obeying the Scriptures and following the example of the Lord Jesus Christ in our treatment of others?  I’m closing with a short prayer that Billy Graham offers in one of his devotionals:  “Heavenly Father, fill me with that supernatural love of Jesus that enables me to reach out to the myriads of people who, in and of myself, would be impossible to love.”

 

 

PI Sermon for Pi Approximation Day

7/22, Bible sermon, Bible sermons, circle, geometry, God, how many decimal points is significant?, I Kings 7:23-26, July 22, math, mathematics, pi, pi in I Kings 7:23-26, pi in the Bible, pi message, pi's approximation, Psalm 19:1, rainbow, rainbow's arc, sea of cast metal, Uncategorized

INTRODUCTION:

I’m betraying my age, but when I was in high school, pi was 22/7 or 3.1416,  and the answers to the geometry problems were to be rounded off to two decimal places.  We had our slide rules, but most of the problems had to be done “the long way”. Calculators were not allowed to be used on tests or exams.  I can think of two good reasons:  most of us students couldn’t afford the expensive calculators, and the teacher wanted to make sure that we knew how to “do the math”.

A lot of new technology has been invented since my high school days, but circles will always be an important part of mathematics and its application to our lives.  God must like circles because He sure made a lot of them!   Psalm 19:1 in the Bible says:  “The heavens are telling of the glory of God …”. I invite you to go to a nearby park or even take a close look at your own backyard (if you have one).   I’ll bet you run out of time or give up before you count everything that is circular or spherical in its shape.   Look inside your house and you will find man-made circular objects galore.  Why?  Symmetry, beauty, efficiency, and order, to name a few reasons.

I believe I’m correct when I say that pi is a real, irrational, transcendental, infinite, non-repeating, constant, prime number.  It’s the only one of its kind.  Correct me if I’m wrong.

National Geographic did an article with pictures of  “almost” perfect circles in nature and in the universe.  Such examples as:  the rings of Saturn, the pupil of the human eye, the arc of a rainbow, tissues in the cross-section of a plant stem, a ripple, “fairy circles” in the desert grasslands.  I believe they show eight pictures and descriptions in all.  Type “almost perfect circles in nature” in your web browser and it will direct you to the site.  You’ll be amazed!

A question that is often asked:  Is Pi in the Bible?  Yes it is!  In the Old Testament, in First Kings chapter 7, and verses 23-26, where God gave to king Solomon the instructions for  constructing the sea of cast metal.  If we divide the circumference of the cast metal sea (“thirty cubits”) by its diameter (“ten cubits from brim to brim”), pi is 3.  It may be pi to the “zeroith” decimal place, but it’s still pi.  Solomon’s craftsmen weren’t building a spaceship to the moon so they didn’t need “pinpoint accuracy”. Also their measuring devices were the “cubit” (the distance from the elbow to the middle finger) and the “span” (the distance from the thumb to the little finger of a wide-open hand).  So a pi of 3 was all that was needed to get the job done.   I’m not a mathematician, but Roy A. Reinhold,  in his website, ad2004.com/prophecytruths/articles/mathmysterys.html gives a picture and description of this huge sea of water, and does some mathematical calculations that result in a more accurate approximation of pi. Please check it out.  It’s a short and easy-to-read article.  If you type “biblical math mystery solution for pi” into your web browser, it will take you directly to that site.

By the way, isn’t pi always an approximation?  You can calculate pi to a million decimal places, but you still haven’t come to the exact number.  There is more calculation to be done, isn’t there?  Frustrating, but amazing!

I hope this short message has given you an opportunity to think about the myriad of applications of pi  in nature, how these shapes came into being, and the One who put it all together.  I hope it has also caused you to think for a moment about infinity/eternity.

Happy Pi Approximation Day to you this 7/22/14, and may all your approximations be sufficient for their applications!