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!