James 2:1-4 (NKJV)1 My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. 2 For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, 3 and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” 4 have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
According to Karl Marx, the founder of communism, the key to interpreting world history is class struggle. The rich and the poor have contrary designs and aims – the rich constantly endeavoring to repress the poor and the poor continually endeavoring to supplant the rich. This conflict is the key to understanding and interpreting history as well as resolving the problems of humanity. For, according to Marx, the problems of humanity will only be solved when inequalities of wealth have been eliminated.
But notice that James tells us that the solution for such societal ills lies not in the elimination of rich and poor but in the recognition that the distinction between them pales in light of the distinction between Christ and the rich and poor together. Wealth is not the source of the world’s problems, sin is. Consequently, communism is not the solution to the world’s problems, Christ is.
In Christ, divisions between rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, male and female, black and white, aged and young, tall and short are not simply minor errors but undermine the very fabric of the Christian faith. They preach another Gospel. They declare that humanity’s problem lies somewhere other than sin – and hence they proclaim that the solution for humanity is not the Gospel but some type of social engineering orchestrated by the state.
In the passage before us today, James acknowledges that both rich and poor will find themselves in the Church of God. However, he notes that their class standing has absolutely no relevance for their place in the Church of God.
Jesus, James tells us in verse 1, is the Shekinah Glory of God Himself. Notice that James makes this observation in the context of corporate worship – when a man comes into your assembly. In light of what we have learned about worship, James’ comment makes complete sense. When we enter worship, we are entering into the Temple of God, the very throne room of God, Heaven itself to appear before our great God and King as the Church of the living God. When we enter the Holy Place we come before the Shekinah glory - so how can we even dare to divide people based on lesser principles of glory among men? On an earthly plain the rich may appear more glorious – but does not this glory pale before the far superior Glory of our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, in whose presence we gather for worship? In Christ, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, male and female, black and white, aged and new born, tall and short are to worship together in joyful unity and complementary diversity, proclaiming the excellencies of the one who has saved us from our real problem - sin.
Let us then learn the lesson of James about the Gospel. We must beware lest we become deceived by the empty philosophies about us and imagine that humanity’s problems can be solved in some way other than through Christ. We are living through a period of electioneering in our country. Do not listen to the siren call of those who promise deliverance from societal ills through social engineering. The Gospel is the solution – not Barack Obama, not Hilary Clinton, not John McCain, not Mike Huckabee, not Ron Paul, but Jesus.
Let us pray that He would solve these problems by first and foremost forgiving us for transgressing His ways. Let us kneel and confess our sins together.