Don’t Play Favorites!Fr. Barnabas Powell
So, here’s 8 scientifically proven benefits to being beautiful: 1 – You are thought of as healthier. 2 – You actually are healthier. 3 – It’s easier for you to find a mate. 4 – You are thought to be more intelligent. 5 – You are thought to be more persuasive. 6 – Companies with good looking executives have higher sales. 7 – You have an advantage in politics. And 8 – You are perceived to be more likable and trustworthy. Of course, if you’re rich all of the above doesn’t matter!
But there’s a danger here. If we give preferential treatment to someone based on their looks or their financial status, we will always end up hurting folks who weren’t “born” with certain advantages. Whole books and even political movements have been created warning us against this bias of behavior. And yet, no matter how many times we hear it, no matter how many times we humans are confronted with the negative aspects of showing favoritism, we still do it. But, is it really so bad to show partiality?
Let’s peek into our Lesson from James 2:1-13 and find out what that troublesome Apostle has to teach us, shall we?
BRETHREN, show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man with gold rings and in fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while you say to the poor man, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brethren. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you, is it not they who blaspheme the honorable name which was invoked over you? If you really fulfil the royal law, according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well. But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” said also, “Do not kill.” If you do not commit adultery but do kill, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy; yet mercy triumphs over judgment.
St. James once again cuts to the chase. Show no partiality. Ever. Under any circumstances. Period. He tells his hearers to not dishonor the poor man. In fact, St. James tells us exactly what all the prophets of the First Testament told us. He tells us exactly what our Lord Jesus told us. And he tells us what all the Fathers and Mothers of the Church have told us since then as well. Don’t show partiality. Don’t play favorites! Ever. Don’t do it! But why, especially if it comes so natural to us?
Here’s why – Dishonor. When we play favorites based on attributes over which someone had no control we do the opposite of honoring the image of God in every person. And when we dishonor the image of God in another, we also diminish our ability to recognize the image of God in ourselves! The only result of that dishonor is disharmony and destruction.
No wonder James ties dishonoring the poor man with breaking the whole law of love. James reminds us that we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves and there is no qualifier in that command. But that command as all the commandments of God are meant for our ultimate good, not so the Father can have a laundry list of your mistakes. The inability to truly honor the image of God in every person harms the whole universe and makes our own hearts blind to our truest selves.
Today, do you show favoritism to your family, to your own race, to your similar economic status or class? Or worse yet, do you make sure the wealthy are taken care of in hopes of getting something from them? What slavery. What dishonor! It’s time to be so well aware of God in each face, no matter what that face looks like or what that person can do for you that you treat everyone with the honor the dignity of their creation because you are called to love their Creator!
P.S. Have a great weekend. Don’t forget to check out www.JourneytoFullness.com for the latest news about our Video Outreach Project!