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Faith that Works 3. Faith to See - The Test of a Changed Heart

James 2:1-13 New International Version (NIV)

Favouritism Forbidden

2 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,”4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonoured the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbour as yourself,”[a] you are doing right. 9 But if you show favouritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,”[b] also said, “You shall not murder.”[c] If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Today, we will see just how hard James punches. The text today is one of those texts that we in middle-class churches, will nod our head and then try the best to ignore and forget as we leave this place.

James is continuing is argument which will come to its head next week of faith that does not change you is simply not faith. If you say you know the God of Scripture but your actions have not changed, your language has not changed, and as we will see the way you see people and treat people has not changed, you don’t believe! Or to put it in another way what you believe has not got into you.

As Martin Luther Put it, “we are saved by faith alone, but not by faith that remains alone.”

Today James attacks the human tendency to look down on the poor and those outside of our group. And he addresses that if we say we believe, it will be marked by a concern for the poor.

Now, church, here is where we need to take stock and on some level repent, because the church has not always had the best track record for being a bastion for the poor. In fact, it became the call that Karl Marx used as his critique against Christianity.

Marx wrote in A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right;

“Religion is the sign of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”

And it was due to the de-Christianising of Russia and Europe that cause the “proletariat” or workers uprising in Russia and then in Italy under Mussolini’s Fascism and Hitler’s Nazism. The church had become politically powerful and yet this institute for the poor was oppressing the poor.

So, Marx was right in a way, the powerful had used religion to oppress the poor rather than uplift them. Unfortunately, we found out in the 20th century that when we replace religion with the state we get even more oppression.

Now, this was not how it was like in the first century and in fact it is still not true today. Christianity; the gospel is a great hope to the poor and becomes not an oppression but an incredible point of upliftment if we present it as the gospel.

Which is the first point we get from James;

1. God chooses the poor (v5)

In verse 5 we see James say that God has chosen the poor. This seems to be how God works, we see the same thing mentioned in 1 Corinthians where Paul says many of you were not wise, or rich or powerful but God chose the weak and the poor and the powerless.

You know what this is still how God works today; look at where the greatest growth in Christianity it happening? Is it in historically wealthy countries? Nope! It is south America, it is poorer parts of Africa, throughout Asia.

In fact it seems where a culture becomes richer they abandon God. Now the more cynical among you would say exactly religion is the opiate of the masses. But analyse those rich culture; they have a higher portion of suicide they have not transcended God, they have simply abandoned Him.

God choses the poor because the gospel is for the poor. Think about what the gospel is and why is it such hope for the poor, and why the middle class and the well to do reject it.

You see the gospel says, you are sick, broken, impoverished by your sin. Now to someone who is middle class or rich this does not resonate; because although they have a sense that there is something wrong in the world and although they know they mess up, they are convinced that their success is from their own hard work.

We have a deep down work to reward understanding of the world. So when the message of the gospel comes to us; we are like, ja I’ve got my problems, hopefully God can correct them so I can start getting about the hard work of getting to heaven.

Religion is loved by the middle class and wealthy, but grace leaves us scratching our head because we are not convinced that we are that bad; that impoverished.

To the poor, everywhere they go they are reminded that they don’t stack up, they are out, they don’t have what it takes, and for many poor, they will never even get the opportunity to even get a chance of entering race to compete.

The gospel identifies with them; I am a failure, I don’t make the grade, this is their world, but the beauty of the Gospel is that it doesn’t leave them there. The gospel says you don’t make the grade, you can never make the grade, but God honours you so much that He has chosen you and in Him the grade is already achieved! It is done!

And it doesn’t leave them in their poverty because it says, as poor as you are He has chosen you to be a part of His special work in the world!

And the rich and the well to do, say that unfair, I have all theses degrees, and achievements, why do they get used! And just like that we have missed the whole gospel! We have to get to the place like Paul does in Corinthians where he says, everything I have amassed and everything that has made me great; I consider them dung compared to what Christ did for me!

You can’t ever EVER work your way into God’s kingdom! This is why grace is for the poor.

And this is why mercy becomes the great marker for grace in our lives church, which is my second point;

2. Mercy for the merciful (v12-13)

In verse 13 James says;

“because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

There is a kind of play on words