Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 9

My brothers, do not hold the faith of the glory of our Master יֵשׁוּע, Yeshua the Messiah in favoritism. For if there comes into your synagogue a man with a gold ring, dressed in bright clothing, and there also comes in a poor man in shabby clothing, and you look upon him wearing the bright clothing and say, “You—sit here well-situated,” and to the poor man say, “You—stand there,” or “Sit under my footstool,” did you not make distinctions fully among yourselves, and so become ill-reasoning judges? Listen, my beloved brothers: did not God choose the poor in the world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the Reign that He promised to those loving Him?… If, indeed, you bring the King’s תּוֹרָה, Torah to its goal according to the Scripture, “You must love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show favoritism, you enact sin, and are being convicted by the תּוֹרָה, Torah as sidesteppers. (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 2:1-9, mjlt)

My favorite ice cream is peanut butter and chocolate—hands down. Sure, the Sea Salt Caramel gelato from Talenti is unbelievable, but if you put the two in front of me and forced me to choose (“What? I can’t have both?“), I would pick the peanut butter and chocolate all day, every day. Why? I don’t know. It’s yummy. That’s the one I like. It’s my favorite.

We all choose favorites at one time or another. We have favorite foods, colors, clothes, books, songs, sports teams, movies, weather, pets, you name it. Sometimes—probably more often than we should—we even have favorite people. People we like to be with and do things for and, frankly, show preferential treatment. While it’s one thing to show favor to someone, especially in times of need, it’s quite another to show favoritism based merely on the other person’s station in life, or how they look, or our feelings toward them, or our own personal biases and preferences.

When dealing with people—especially people we are biased against—we disciples of Messiah are not allowed to show favoritism… ever. The way we demonstrate and put our faith into action—the way we live out who we are in Messiah—is to act the same way toward all people, regardless of who they are, or how much (or how little) we like them. We cannot elevate or denigrate people because they do not fit in our social or political class, or they dress poorly, or they smell funny, or they don’t like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (who doesn’t like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups?!?!). When the distinctions we make between people lead us to showing some people favoritism over others, we become “ill-reasoning judges,” unworthy of the faith we represent and the resources with which we have been entrusted.

In God’s big, beautiful irony, “did not [He] choose the poor in the world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the Reign that He promised to those loving Him?” While our little pea brains want to be partial to people who are financially successful, particularly well-dressed, good-looking, smart, clever, or even those who just share our worldly values and ideals, God cares nothing for these things where the exercise of our faith is concerned. Rather, He gives abundantly to those we might otherwise deem unfit, so long as they love Him richly.

As Messiah-followers, we are not entitled to “hold the faith of the glory of our Master יֵשׁוּע, Yeshua the Messiah in favoritism.” On the contrary, our job as His disciples is to “bring the King’s תּוֹרָה, Torah to its goal according to the Scripture, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.'” By not passing judgment or withholding love, we reflect God’s love, and in this we “do well.” “[B]ut if you show favoritism, you enact sin, and are being convicted by the תּוֹרָה, Torah as sidesteppers.” Favoritism misses the goal.

The temptation to show favoritism is great, especially because it disguises itself as the desire to be nice to some—while, in reality, demanding the mistreatment of others. Know your biases and resist them. Bring God’s Torah to its goal by showing the same love to all.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

6 replies
  1. Aggie Henley
    Aggie Henley says:

    The problem is, I tend to work the other way. If someone has nice clothing, a reputable job, etc. that’s when my red flag goes up, expecting false niceness and phony behaviors! People will be people. I don’t quite know how to get around that fact. It’s so ingrained.

    Reply
  2. drb
    drb says:

    ugh. I find this more difficult. As an example…let’s say that someone who clearly is an alcoholic or drug addict (could be porn, prostitution, etc) indicates they need money or that they have other needs….Do we give freely regardless of knowing that they could kill themselves with overdose with our “help?” Or that our $$ would be spent on evil intent? Treating everyone the same…I don’t seem to be able to comprehend how to really do that…. Isn’t “showing favoritism” often the same as using discernment? Can be a tight rope to walk!!!

    Reply
    • Kevin Geoffrey
      Kevin Geoffrey says:

      drb, thanks for your comment. I don’t think the scenario you described is what this passage is talking about, though. I also didn’t say to treat everyone exactly the same, but rather to treat everyone with the same love. Giving money to someone in need is loving, but can sometimes be unloving, as in the situation you described. That said, your scenario does indeed involve showing love with discernment. I wouldn’t qualify it as a situation of showing favoritism, though. Showing favoritism in your scenario would be not helping him because you are passing judgment on his past behavior.

      Reply
  3. FRB
    FRB says:

    Kevin, this article today is so good, I wonder how anyone would not totally agree with it. Love G-d and Love your neighbor as yourself was Yeshua’s words about the Torah and if you can’t understand that, ask the Holy Spirit to help you!

    Reply
    • Kevin Geoffrey
      Kevin Geoffrey says:

      Thanks FRB! I don’t think any of the other commenters are disagreeing, just expressing their personal difficulty with the application. This can definitely be one of those easy-to-understand, difficult-to-implement commands because it centers on our ability to dampen and resist our biases, and instead relinquish ourselves to the Ruach in love.

      Reply
  4. Helen Havel
    Helen Havel says:

    Such a good lesson and teaching. We as disciples of Yeshua truly need to follow this, especially in the times we live in where social status is everything. This lesson made me check my own heart and ask myself ” do I act that way toward others? ” Thank you for helping me to evaluate my own heart . Great teaching !!!

    Reply

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