Playing Favorites

Doers of the Word                 
September 5, 2021                    
Playing Favorites

The Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, gave us this to wonder about: “I went to a church with a marble floor and sat on the velvet pew.  I watched as the sun came shining through the stained-glass window.  The minister, dressed in an elegant robe, opened the golden gilded Bible, marked it with a silk bookmark and proceeded to proclaim, ‘If any man will be my disciple, said Jesus, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.’  And I looked around, and nobody was laughing.”

In our second reading for today, James puts a congregation on trial for giving good seats to the wealthy and forcing poor people to stand in the back.  James condemns this favoritism toward the rich, and prejudices against the poor.  People who discriminate against others based on socio-economic status violate the Law of God.

The same biases continue today.  Our churches might consider only the wealthy for church leadership. Or we may respond coldly to people who appear poor.  This warning does not imply that we should favor the poor and ignore the rich.  We are guilty of reverse discrimination when we assume that people have gained wealth other than by honesty and hard work.

James asserts that favoritism is as much a transgression of the law as adultery or murder (James 2:10-11).  The behavior of Christians in James chapter 2 shows how faith that is not reflected in our actions fails to welcome all into God’s house as equals.

Paul’s letter to the Galatians (3:28) brought shocking changes to how people related to each other.  Suddenly, Gentiles and Jews could stand before God together.  Both slaves and master could pray or prophesy.  Both women and men could enjoy full membership in the Body of Christ.

Today we can continue this work of breaking down barriers, and of forming friendships that demonstrate that the Church is an embodiment of God’s Kingdom and is far more than a human institution.