Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we thank You that You never show favoritism. Instead, You show the same kind of love and compassion for all of us. You treat all of us the same. This is because we have no reason in our sinful lives for You to favor one over another. May that same truthfulness be shown in our hearts and by our actions so that humble love may always predominate in Your holy Church. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO LOVES ALL OF US EQUALLY!
TEXT: James 2: 1-5, 8-10, 14-18
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
In Pinewood’s 135 year history, we’ve had 12 Pastors. The 9th Pastor was the Rev. Rudolph Honsey, who served in the mid ‘60’s. After he left Pinewood he took the call to teach Hebrew at our College and Seminary. That’s where I got to know: Prof. Honsey. I don’t know of one person who ever had him or knew him that didn’t like Prof. Honsey. He was one of the most kind, compassionate, and humble people I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting. To give you a snapshot of his persona, here’s a true story.
Every time I met him at synod convention he would always seek me, or other of his students, out. We were in the back of the gym when I met him that day. With a big grin he greeted me: “Hi Tom, who are you doing?” Then he looked around and spied a couple of comfy conference room chairs that were empty. “Let’s sit down and talk for a while until some big-shot kicks us out!” he exclaimed. We did. The thing that is striking about that remark is that everyone knew that Prof. Honsey was the chief “big shot” in the room! Everyone that is, except Honsey! He was the most humble person I’ve ever met. This from a man who knew over 23 languages—a factoid a friend of mine had pried out of him years before! The sainted Rudolph Honsey is a legend and always will be in our circles.
He epitomized St. James’ words of our text: “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.”
It’s human nature to show favoritism, isn’t it? It’s human nature to like some people more than others; to spend extra time with them; and to overlook and excuse their flaws—even when we shouldn’t. The question is: Why do we do that? The answer is multi-faceted, but it all boils down to our own insecurities. We judge others by externals—their car, their home, their clothes, their job. We judge them by what they can do or give to us—or so we surmise. Our insecurities cause us to want to hang out with the popular folks, or the good looking ones, or the smart ones because we think that some of their blessings will automatically rub off on us. I suppose this is the driver behind “celebrity endorsements.” Wear Nike’s and you’ll somehow be as athletic as Michael Jordan, or wear TB12 stuff and you’ll be like Tom Brady.
People’s insecurities cause us to let our pride be puffed up by associating with certain other people or trying to curry favor with them because thereby we’ll feed our pride—all because we’re inwardly insecure. And in modern times this has gotten worse. I still recall a friend of mine who now is in heaven, who was a Harvard researcher. When I arrived in Boston he told me: “Celebrities like Boston because people basically ignore them. Bostonians think they are as good as anyone on this earth, so they feel no need to cow-tow to a celebrity!” Alas, with the rise of social media and the celebrity culture of America, that has all changed.
In God’s church everyone is the same before God. God treats us all the exact same way, doesn’t He? We’re all sinners. We’re all by nature enemies of God. None of us can offer God anything and He doesn’t have to favor one of us over another because He has no insecurities—He’s the Almighty.
So when it comes to our salvation, God also treats us equally. He doesn’t favor you because you earn more money—He doesn’t need your money. He doesn’t favor you because you’re more athletic, more attractive, wear designer clothes, are humanly popular, or are blest with more brain-power than another, either. After all, what can any human ever do that would impress God?
No, God loves saints and sinners alike. He loves us equally in and because of His Son, Jesus Christ. Recall the passage of Paul: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Christ paid for our insecurities, our sin, on the cross. And by rising to life He also gave us the most special, secure future imaginable! We’re all blest children of the Most High. It’s His gift to us through faith. We have it all through faith in Him and we need nothing else to prop us up in life. Whereas showing favoritism is our attempt to prop ourselves up because we feel insecure.
Favoritism reveals our sinful hearts. It shows that God’s blessings and gifts are somehow inadequate. And then our exemplary life crumbles as our text says: “Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking it all.”
James adds that true faith will reveal itself in actions. “Faith without deeds is dead.” They both go hand-in-hand. And so for Christians who wish to be true to God, we will emulate our Savior in being humble in our actions. Here’s were Prof. Honsey comes in. He was a humble believer. He knew world-renowned theologians. He was world-renowned in his own right. But he didn’t consider himself that. He talked to everyone, spent time and energy on everyone crossing his path. He always sought to build others up and increase their faith and understanding because that’s what Jesus did and he was a child of Jesus. He was humble in spirit—especially to those who needed to be encouraged. So, yes, with some he spent more time, not to feed his ego, but to increase God’s kingdom.
This little section of Scripture was written to get you to modify your behavior and do the same in God’s Church. All of us are in the exact same boat. All of us need to bail equally so that the devil and his minions don’t swamp the boat. And the bailing bucket God has provided—the love and gratitude towards our Savior for building the boat and charting our course to heaven—is sufficient to the task. So don’t favor the ship-mate who may appear stronger or more resolute. Encourage everyone equally with God’s love, and then you’ll all arrive at the final destination with thanksgiving. Amen