Café Church @ St Barnabas, 13th September 2009

Reading – James 2:1-13


  • Do you support a football team? Why that particular team?
  • Was/is there a favourite child in your family/class at school? How did/do you feel about it?
  • Why do we have favourites?

Favouritism is based on judgement …

James 2 image #1

If these two girls walked into the room, which would you want to talk to? Those of you who watch Ugly Betty may know of course, that both pictures are of the same girl … but we make assumptions about people based on how they look.

God has never chosen anyone on the basis of looks or ability … think of the story of David, the smallest in his family. When God sent Samuel the prophet to anoint the new king of Israel, Samuel came first to David’s brother Eliab …

Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed stands here before the LORD.” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:6-7 NIV)

James 2 image #2

Which is one reason that God has a special relationship with the poor. Wealth often gets in the way of our relationship with God … remember the story of the rich young ruler who wanted to please God, who came to Jesus to ask what more he could do … Jesus told him,

“Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:21-23 NIV)

God’s special relationship with ‘the poor’ is simply because the poor know they are dependent on him … they have no choice. We don’t like being dependent, we prefer to go it alone, but a relationship with God in Jesus Christ is about doing things God’s way, and choosing not to be the centre of our own lives

Therefore the first key verse from our reading today is verse 8, Love your neighbour as yourself, which was how Jesus summarised all the teachings of the law (Matthew 22:39). Loving other people for God’s sake is at the heart of what God calls us to do … loving them not because of how they look, or how much money or power or influence they have, but because God loves them, and we know that God loves them, because he loves us, and we know we don’t deserve it either!

But there is a second key to this passage, look at verses 12-13, Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgement!

When we judge others, we need first to remember that we too will be judged … by God … and God won’t be fooled by appearances. We can make all sorts of excuses for our behaviour to others, even to ourselves, but God knows our hearts … yet he shows us mercy … just as we are to show our neighbours mercy in our judgements of them.


  • Read verse 8 – Who is our neighbour? How, practically, can we love them?
  • Read verse 12 – How can any ‘law’ give us freedom? (Think of the Highway Code …)
  • Read verse 13 – Is it ever right to withhold mercy?

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