A man said to his friend: “I can’t break my wife of the habit of staying up until five in the morning.” “What is she doing up so late?” “Waiting for me to get home.” Bad habits!
We all have bad habits, both as individuals and as a church. One of the bad habits of the first-century church was the practice of showing partiality to the rich. Church members honored those persons wearing gold rings and fine clothes saying: “Have a seat here, please” (James 2:2-3).
Many years ago in Scotland, a new game was invented. Its first rule was: “Gentlemen OnlyLadies Forbidden”, and thus the word GOLF entered into the English language. One of our bad habits is judging people based on their outer appearance, and not taking the time to find out what is in their hearts.
A disheveled man wearing rumpled clothes and emitting a slight odor visited a church. The congregation did its best to ignore him. The usher showed him a seat near the front because he knew that none of the congregation sat in those pews. Needless to say the man was not invited for coffee.
However, on the following Sunday, the same man again visited the church. But this time he was dressed in an expensive suit. No one recognized him. The usher greeted him and introduced him to several of the church’s members. After worship he was invited for coffee and then the congregational president and his wife invited him to their home for lunch. When the fried chicken was passed, their guest took a portion and put it into his suit pocked. When the potatoes were passed, the visitor calmly put some in his other pocket, and then he poured the gravy in over the meat and the potatoes. Finally the embarrassed host asked: “Why are you doing this?’ “Well,” said the man, “you obviously did not invite me to this fine Sunday repast, you invited my suit. So, I am feeding my suit!”
We may say: “That’s a ridiculous story! However, James wants to remind us that it is even more ridiculous to have the bad habit of judging people based on outer appearances. He writes: “By your acts of favoritismyou have made distinctions among yourselvesand by showing partiality you have committed sin” (James 2:1, 4). So how do we move away from this bad habit of showing partiality based on outer appearances? Surprisingly, the answer is not more Biblical study. The answer is to develop better habits. James tells us “To fulfill the royal law of scripture which is to love your neighbor as yourself” (James 2:8). If we love others as we love ourselves, we will act in a way that puts equal value on every person whether rich or poor, strong or weak, neighbor or stranger.
Jesus was the first Meals on Wheels, the first Doctor Beyond Borders and He “Came not to be served but to serve.” Follow His example and develop a better habit of “fulfilling the Royal law of love because faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:8, 17).