Playing Favorites

August 22 — James 2:1–14

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. (James 2:1)

“Mom always liked you best!” Those were trademark words of Tom Smothers in his famous comedy routine with his brother, Dick. People always laughed at his words because many of them could relate. Brothers and sisters often compare how they have been treated by their parents. One will claim favoritism or lack thereof and the battle is on!
It’s easy to fall into playing favorites. It’s easy to choose one person over another for a variety of reasons. Maybe they have treated us better or maybe they make us feel better than someone else. Whatever the reason, it is very easy, sometimes without even being aware we are doing it, to show favoritism. But, James declares in our verse today, “As believers in our glorious Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.”
This causes me to pause and ask, didn’t Jesus show favoritism? I mean, what about his inner circle of Peter, James and John? Didn’t they receive special treatment from the Lord? How was this different than what James describes in chapter two of his letter?
I wish I had some profound answers to these questions, but I don’t. In fact, none of us may be able to answer these questions until we are able to ask Jesus face to face. After all, only He knows his motivation for pulling these three from the rest on certain key occasions. What I do know as I’ve reflected on James’ words is that he is speaking of a standard of living. The basis for his instructions to not show favoritism is found in verse 8: If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. So, the standard against which we are to measure our actions is this: Am I treating others with love? In other words, by exalting or treating one person with apparent favoritism, am I treating another in an unloving fashion? If I can honor one without insulting or dishonoring another, then this is still done in a spirit of love. We can also ask, what is your motive in treating one person differently? Is it for personal gain? If so, it is not done in a spirit of love, either.
By maintaining a spirit of love and treating others in accordance with this love, then we can be more assured that we are not “showing favoritism” as James warns against. Oh, and by the way, Mom really did like me best! — Just kidding!