TRUE WISDOM IS WITHOUT PARTIALITY – James 3:17 (continued)

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The word translated “partiality” is the Greek word adiakritos.  It is a compound word and this is the only place in the New Testament where this word is used.  The Greek word has two distinct meanings, but those meanings complement each other.  I am describing them one at a time and you will see how the two meanings balance each other out.

The first relates to a person’s treatment of others.  A person with wisdom from above makes no distinctions in his or her treatment of others.  This is a wisdom that is free from bias and favoritism.  It is not influenced by another person’s apparel, rank or position, physical or mental condition, age, color or creed, but is fair and just to all.

General Robert E. Lee was a devout follower of Jesus Christ.  It is said that soon after the end of the American Civil War, he visited a church in Washington D.C.  During the communion service he knelt beside a black man.  An onlooker said to him later, “How could you do that?”  Lee responded, “My friend, all ground is level beneath the cross.”

A person who exercises Godly wisdom shows kindness to all, and does not engage in negative criticism of others, or use sarcasm when speaking about others.  In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi wrote that during his student days he read the Gospels seriously and considered converting to Christianity.  He believed that in the teachings of Jesus he could find the solutions to the caste system that was dividing the people of India.  So one Sunday he decided to attend services at a nearby church and talk to the minister about becoming a Christian.  When he entered the sanctuary, however, the usher refused to give him a seat and suggested that he go worship with his own people.  Gandhi left the church and never returned.  “If Christians have caste differences also,” he said, “I might as well remain a Hindu.”  That usher’s prejudice not only betrayed Jesus but also turned a person away from trusting Him as Savior and Lord.

Are there people you look down upon or refuse to associate with?  Are there people you speak evil about or make fun of when they are not around?  What about your thoughts and attitudes toward “certain people”?  We all have our prejudices that we have to be careful about and fight against, don’t we?  The following story appeared in the newsletter “Our America”:   

Dodie Gadient, a schoolteacher for thirteen years, decided to travel across America and see the sights she had taught about.  Traveling alone in a truck with a trailer in tow, she launched out.  One afternoon, rounding a curve on I-5 near Sacramento, California, in rush-hour traffic, the water pump blew on her truck.  She was tired, exasperated, scared, and alone.  In spite of the traffic jam she caused, no one seemed interested in helping.  Leaning up against the trailer, she prayed, “Please, God, send me an angel . . . preferably one with mechanical experience.”

Within four minutes a huge Harley drove up, ridden by an enormous man sporting long, black hair, a beard and tattooed arms.  With an incredible air of confidence, he jumped off and, without even glancing at Dodie, went to work on the truck.  Within another few minutes, he flagged down a larger truck, attached a tow chain to the frame of the disabled Chevy, and whisked the whole 56-foot rig off the freeway onto a side street, where he calmly continued to work on the water pump.

The intimidated schoolteacher was too dumbfounded to talk, especially when she read the paralyzing words on the back of his leather jacket:  “Hell’s Angels – California”.  As he finished the task, she finally got up the courage to say, “Thanks so much”, and carry on a brief conversation.  Noticing her surprise at the whole ordeal, he looked her straight in the eye and mumbled, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.  You may not know who you’re talking to.”      With that, he smiled, closed the hood of the truck, and straddled his Harley.  With a wave, he was gone as fast as he had appeared.

Was this an “angel in disguise?”  We don’t know, but why couldn’t an angel take on such a human form?  Maybe he was just a “good Samaritan”  whose heart God had touched in this desperate situation. Either way, God sent an “angel” in answer to her prayer and he met her need.  One lesson learned was that people shouldn’t always be judged by what they look like on the outside.

The Greek word we’ve been studying, adiakritos, also means “unwavering”.  Wisdom from above is evidenced by an unwavering loyalty to God and His Word.  It does not play politics with the truth, and is undivided in it’s committment to God and to others.  Godly wisdom does not succumb to peer pressure, and is not swayed by selfish interests.

One who possesses wisdom from above is free from ambiguity.  The Lord Jesus Christ says in Matthew 5:37:  “But let your statement be ‘yes,yes’, and ‘no, no’.”  The word “no” is one of the few words in the English language that cannot be misunderstood.  In the Old Testament book of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego demonstrated unswerving obedience to God.  In Daniel 3:17,18 they said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “If so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the image which you have set up.”

Proverbs 24:10 says, “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.”  You can easily determine the caliber of a person by the amount of opposition it takes to discourage him.

In the 1960’s, drug companies were presenting nearly 700 applications a year to the Federal Drug Administration for new medicines.  The New Drug Section had sixty days to review each drug before giving approval or requesting more data.

A few months after Dr. Frances Kelsey joined the FDA, an established pharmaceutical firm in Ohio applied for a license to market a new drug, Kevadon.  In liquid form the drug seemed to relieve nausea in early pregnancy.  It was given to millions of expectant women, mostly in Europe, Asia, an Africa.  Although scientific studies revealed harmful side effects, the pharmaceutical firm printed 66,957 leaflets declaring its safety.  The company exerted great pressure on Dr. Kelsey to give permission for labels to be printed, in anticipation of the drug’s approval.

Dr. Kelsey reviewed the data and said no.  Through several rounds of applications, she continued to find the data “unsatisfactory”.  After a fourteen-month struggle, the company humbly withdrew its application.  “Kevadon” was thalidomide, and by that time, the horror of thalidomide deformities and missing limbs on newborn babies was becoming well publicized!  One firm “no” decision by Dr. Kelsey spared untold agony in the United States.  (taken from God’s Little Devotional Book)

An illustration of the word “unwavering” that just came to my mind is the description of a Christian that the apostle Paul gives in Ephesians 6:13-17.  In this passage of Scripture, the Christian is described as a soldier, clothed in the armor of God.  The command is to “stand firm” and resist the devil.  It is interesting and significant to note that there is no armor for the soldier’s back. The soldier was not to retreat in the battle against Satan, or in the defense of the Gospel of Christ.

May God give us the grace and the wisdom to be impartial in our treatment of others and unwavering in our committment to do what is true and right in the sight of God.  The manifestation of these qualities in our lives is further evidence that we are exercising Godly wisdom, the “wisdom from above”.

 

 

OVERCOMING PREJUDICE – James 2:1-13

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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.”