1 My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. 2 For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, 3 and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? 5 Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? 7 Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called? 8 If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
Money is essential to the sustaining of most churches. As long as there is a property that has a mortgage or rent, lights that needs to be turned on, and pastors that need to support their families, money will always be a part of the picture. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It allows for many members to directly impact the ministries of the church with their support even without having the time, gifting, or passion for those ministries. It allows people to acknowledge in a tangible way that their finances are not their own. It also creates an opportunity for the church leadership to trust (or to demonstrate their lack of trust) in God’s complete control of the church’s future. I was reminded of this recently as I marveled at the faith of the very godly men that I get to serve with in leadership.
Even more unfortunate, is that, in more subtle ways, favoritism has crept into the modern church. I have heard more than a few times, “We have to think about the older generation in the church,” which seems reasonable and loving, until they finish the statement with, “because that is where most of the giving comes from.” I have also been a part of other discussions that are quick to address the need of a particular wealthy member of the body because if we don’t we might lose them while putting other needs on the back burner. From a purely human and financial standpoint, of course these are wise decisions, but isn’t this favoritism from God’s perspective?
What we tend to overlook is the fact that it is the faith of the poor that we should be holding up as an example with admiration. It is their influence on the body of Christ that we should be concerned about losing. Now of course, these are broad brush strokes and generalities. Without a doubt, there are great men and women of faith on all socio-economic levels. But as a general rule, God has used the poor, the weak, the ridiculed, and the disenfranchised of the world to put real faith on display, and as a general rule, it is the rich and powerful of our world who exploit and oppress others to become more rich and powerful.
As with all revealed truth, it comes back to godly love. That is the starting place. If you were a poorer member of the church with less to give, would you want your concerns to be heard with less urgency than the wealthier? So love how you would want to be loved. If you give more to the church than most, do you expect your voice to be heard above the rest? Stop. Instead, start looking for the rich in faith and spend some time sitting at their feet. Are you in a leadership role? To whom are you giving the most time and attention? Have you ”made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives.”
May we make God’s love the motivation for how we treat each other, not based on a standard of wealth but of faith.