No Respect of Persons

James wrote about this problem, and gave one specific example of it, but it seems to invade churches in many different forms.  If James were talking to believers today about the error of “respect of persons,” he might mention an additional example.  Since he isn’t here, and since the Lord expects us to use the brains He’s given and apply what James said to other instances of the same problem, you’ll have to put up with me. 🙂

What Did James Say?

Let’s start by going to Scripture — what Holy Spirit-inspired words came from the pen of James?

James 2:1-9

1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.
2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;
3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:
4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?
6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?
7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?
8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:
9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.

There’s nothing particularly complicated in this text.  James starts by saying that you have faith in the very Lord of Glory, so you certainly can’t let respect of persons come into it.  Don’t give honour to someone just because he’s rich, and treat poor people like dirt.  Oh, and by the way, don’t you remember that God gives faith to poor people?  And don’t you remember that a lot of rich people act as enemies of your faith and your Lord?  Anyway, whether they are enemies or not, if you behave that way, you are sinning.

Pretty straightforward.  And while there are churches that look for wealthy people and give them special honour and attention, most of us immediately recognise that is absolutely daft.  Poor or rich, the size of his bank balance should have no effect on how a person is treated by believers.  If you know that, you can just cruise through the first half of James 2 and not think about it anymore, right?  Because no one would ever show respect for persons in a church, would they?  Would they?

Another “Version”

Perhaps there IS another group we should think about….

1  My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.
2 For if there come unto your assembly some teenagers dressed in whatever is considered to be “cool” today, and there come in also an old man;
3 And ye have respect to the youth, and say unto them, You are the future of the church, we’re going to plan our activities, our worship, everything we do, around you and what you like; and say to the aged, You can come if you want, but we’re targeting the youth, because they are the future of the church, so don’t expect us to be concerned if you think some of what we do is inappropriate:
4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God given the aged wisdom and maturity? Are they not supposed to be teaching those who are younger?
6 But ye have despised the aged, rejecting their counsel so that you can be taught what you should do by youths. Do not youths often behave foolishly, disrespect the Gospel and their elders, and ignore wise counsel?
7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?

(Someone will probably say, “Jon, you’re painting with a broad brush.  A lot of youth are godly.  They love the Lord and are wise beyond their years.”  To which I would say, “Yes, and James painted with a broad brush, too, for there have always been rich people who loved the Lord.  And those who love the Lord and are wise, young or old, rich or poor, will agree that there should be no respect of persons.”)

The folly of respect of persons, whether towards the wealthy or towards youth, is manifest.  Yet, many churches sadly have adopted the “youth are the future of the church” mentality.  But let’s be clear.  Youth and children are not the future of the church.  That is a humanistic, man-focused lie right out of the pits of hell.  Politicians say youth and children are the future because it is a good way to sound wise, far-thinking, and caring, and so win a lot of votes.  And Christians, including a lot of pastors and other leaders who should know better, have swallowed it, hook, line, and sinker, adopting it for their view of “church” and getting dragged into a morass that can drown them.

God is the future of the church.  The God who is able to raise up sons of Abraham out of the stones (Luke 3:8) does not need children to build His church.  He loves children and saves them, but He loves and saves adults, too.  We often have as many in our meetings who came in as adults as those who came in as children.  The Lord of the church is as able to fill it with adult converts as He is to keep children and youth who come to know Him.

God has blessed our church with more younger people and children than older people right now, but He could fill our church with elderly saints, and the future of the church would be just as bright — as long as He is in our midst.

Too often, we’ve bought into human philosophies, which too often come from an even darker source.   Our God is strong to save, and our future is entirely His.  We need to build our churches around Him rather than around man-centric follies that exalt one group of people over another.  Respect of persons, even young ones, is abhorrent to the faith of the Lord of glory.

About Jon Gleason

Former Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
This entry was posted in Ambassadors for Christ, The Christian and Culture and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to No Respect of Persons

  1. Well said, Jon. I’m really tired of hearing that we need to “appeal” to the younger generation because they will be the church of the future. Well, the way we appeal to them to get them will make the church of the future quite apostate.

  2. atwin0 says:

    Thanks Jon! I hope many young Christian parents read this and think about it. Many are tempted to the youth-centered mindset and even leave good God-centered Bible preaching churches ‘for the sake of the children’. This shows a clear failure in faith to believe that what those children need is to hear and see BIBLICAL faith lovingly lived out in the church — and in all of life.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Thanks, Tommy. If we want our children to do well, we need to anchor our thinking (and theirs) in Scripture rather than in humanist philosophies. Those philosophies can be very subtle and sound so good — but they lead away from truth.

  3. Thanks, Jon, for this. How true. Comparing one person (or group) with another is unwise; young, old, wealthy, poor (in any ‘goods’ that we may possess). “They, measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves among themselves are not wise.” God is the focus as we come together to worship, not programs or movements. This is a good reminder, Thanks again!

    • Jon Gleason says:

      How interesting that you should cite that verse. The beginning of it says that those who do these things “commend themselves” — and ultimately, respect of persons is self-exaltation, by saying that >I< know who is most important.

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