Don’t Be Partial

We are accustomed to hearing the term “hypocrite” tossed about by accusing atheists. The word comes from Jesus. What was the reality Jesus and the prophets before Him were picturing? People who like to call on God but lack a heart for His laws and precepts. Jesus was quoting Isaiah when He said,

Matthew 15:7–9 7Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 8‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. 9And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”

Near with their mouth, far with their hearts—always a timely lesson.

We have a short video from the web where this principle is illustrated. The story has an unexpected end. The video is called  “The Homeless Man.”

It was a lesson that those people probably didn’t forget. They were at fault for rejecting him—and as the lesson came through, they were rejecting their new pastor, who came dressed like a homeless needy man.

Making fair judgments is one of the commands in God’s law. It is especially important because our judgments can be by action or by words, and how we judge affects others and goes on our record before God.

How do we LIVE our faith in casual, everyday situations? How well are we SHOWING what we believe, and DOING what we say? Showing proper respect and hospitality to one another, especially in the family, is a basic part of pleasing God.

One point to notice all through is the use of the terms “brother” and “sister”—it is all about those either in or interested in the body of Christ or the community of faith. Notice in 1 John 4:

1 John 4:20  20If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?

Under Moses’ law, bearing false witness – lying about someone else’s conduct – had a death sentence on it. God counted the offense serious because it affects another person’s faith and future. The law was definite:

Deuteronomy 5:20  20‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

The principle is stated in Proverbs 17:15:

Proverbs 17:15  15He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, Both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.

The effect will be partiality, condemning one who is really better in character – but perhaps not as “likeable” – and justifying one who is not as upright but whose personality or appearance or mannerisms don’t irritate or bother us. We judge issues that are not “right” or “wrong” and upset our own temperament. It is a form of what the Bible calls “partiality.”

Again in Proverbs 24:

Proverbs 24:23  23These things also belong to the wise: It is not good to show partiality in judgment.

This rejecting some and favoring others for superficial reasons was obviously a problem in the early church. James addressed it directly to his people.

James 2:1–13  1My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.

Faith and partiality do not mix because God will NOT be partial. He does not alter or change His judgment for anyone’s status, education, or perceived this-world advantages. It is many times in Scripture.

Colossians 3:25  25But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.

God will be absolutely fair. What is the likely situation that would bring up the issue in the church? James describes it in detail.

Continuing in James 2:

2For 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, 3and 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,”

The Phillips Bible phrases this in our common language as, “Stand there, or if you must sit, sit on the floor.” Continuing with James:

4have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?

Obviously most unfair, when there is no obvious right-wrong issue, just because someone is not as talented or gifted, or does not look wealthy or well dressed. This does not mean, though, that we invite or encourage slovenly behavior or dissolute living.

The judgment showing partiality is invalid, and reflects back on the person who is putting down the visitor—who may be sincerely interested in learning the truth! James brings them up short, saying that person “judges with evil thoughts.” He appeals:

5Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

Look at how God chooses: He chooses those “poor in this world”—not the proud and haughty who think well of themselves but those willing to listen and learn, who are “rich in faith.” Here is the important issue: character, the true riches, the riches that have real value.

6But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts?

James says, you have put yourselves on a par with those who call themselves rich in this world’s knowledge or wealth, who can “oppress you and drag you into the courts.” Not good. He says, you are counting up the wrong values.

7Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?

Another point: they blaspheme what you call sacred.

Then James says more about the duty of Christian brethren.

8If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well

James commends them for keeping what he calls the “royal law.” Royal? Yes, he says, this is a law designed to train royalty—kings and priests of the world to come! One of the primary commands in that law is regarding how we treat others. What is the command James mentions first?

8…“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

James says keeping that law is a challenge, but…

9but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

You can easily spoil it all, he says,  just by showing partiality. Why?

10For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.

James doesn’t say the one showing partiality has broken every point in the law, but that his obedience is not complete. As Brother Nichols said, it puts a break in the chain, and a broken chain can never draw us into the Kingdom. Every command must be respected and obeyed.

11For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.

What is the underlying point? If you disobey ANY command, you are a transgressor of the law. Your obedience is not complete. The point to remember is:

12So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.

Judged by “the law of liberty.” What is the law of liberty? It is the law of hear and do. James already mentioned it earlier in his book:

James 1:25  25But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

We must “look into the perfect law of liberty” AND “continue in it.” Otherwise we are counted as what kind of hearer?

a “forgetful hearer” instead of “a doer of the work”

Each of us will be judged for what we say (speak) and do.

13For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Isn’t it wonderful that “mercy” is above “judgment”? God is showing us how to stand, He is not trying to take us down. But we MUST show MERCY to others, the same mercy we want for ourselves when we go wrong. This is really an extension of what is called the “golden rule.”

Matthew 7:12  12Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Now getting back to our opening story, we must remember to keep our values in line with God’s law. That is why Jesus said,

John 7:24  24Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”

God does not ask us to take in every homeless one but He does command us to do to others as we would be done by, and always remember hospitality to those who cross our way. Making fair judgments was part of everyone’s duty in Moses’ day.

Deuteronomy 1:16–17  16“Then I commanded your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear the cases between your brethren, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the stranger who is with him. 17You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid in any man’s presence, for the judgment is God’s. The case that is too hard for you, bring to me, and I will hear it.’

Here is a basic point we may not think of: that when we make a judgment, we are representing God, it is God’s judgment and must be according to His standard of right and wrong. This puts the judgment on a different level than being only our opinion. We being under covenant with God are obligated to judge fairly according to God’s law.

If we look at this type of judging as a privilege, as practice in evaluating what is right or wrong, that we are helping someone toward the faith, we will respect it and realize it is serious, and not just be tossing out our opinion.

It reminds us of Jesus’ words:

Matthew 12:36–37  36But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

It is part of our duty to God, to be among those who will RECEIVE mercy.

1 Peter 1:17 17And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.

We should always fear lest we fall short of the standard, lest we “offend” in some point, lest we profess when we don’t possess, lest we say and then don’t DO.

When Jesus told the parable of one who was invited to a wedding feast, He was not only condemning the Pharisees’ hypocrisy, He was showing how the truly “poor in spirit” would be exalted in the Kingdom (Luke 14:7-14). “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (v.11)

Don’t ever be too quick to judge lest you be found guilty of condemning the just or justifying the wicked; both are an abomination to the Lord. God is not partial, neither should we be. Brother Paul tells us, “For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged” (1 Cor.11:31). We must be careful not to judge by the outward appearance; it is what is inside that matters. God is our judge; only He knows the heart.

In the case of the supposed “homeless man”, can we not all say, “There but for the grace of God, go I”?

Before you bring an accusation against another be sure you have all the facts. And remember, sometimes you may be sure but yet sincerely mistaken. I have witnessed this a number of times.

Isn’t this all the more reason to be merciful and slow to condemn?