Faith, Not Finances
Read James 2:2-4 (ESV)
For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Have you ever benefited from preferential treatment based on money? Have you ever been discriminated against because of a lack of money?
Money can buy you a lot of preferential treatment in this world. It can buy you the best seats at the concert while those with less resources get stuck in the nosebleed section. It can buy you a fancy climate-controlled skybox in the football stadium while everyone else is left out in the elements. It can get you seats at a fancy restaurant. It can get you a fast pass to the front of the line at an amusement park. And it can buy you a certain image. The fine clothes, fancy jewelry, a nice car, and a big house… your money talks. It shows off.
But there is somewhere that your money shouldn’t be able to buy you preferential treatment—the assembly of God. In today’s verses, James said that it is evil to make distinctions between people who are gathering together to worship God. He gave an example of a man with a rich image. His gold ring and fine clothing were a signal to everyone that he had money.
It may be tempting to think that we should cater to people with deep pockets because they have the means to give a lot of money to our churches. Just think of all the programs their donations could fund! Think about all the missionaries their gifts could support! Think about how many bills we could get paid off! In exchange for all of that, why not give them the best seats? Why not honor them a bit for their contributions? Because James says that in doing so, we are not judging rightly between people but are making distinctions between them based on evil thoughts.
We see God’s heart for the poor all throughout Scripture. In fact, we are going to look more closely at that tomorrow. But God repeatedly commanded that His people to not judge others based on their financial status. The law says, “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.” (Leviticus 19:15). Whether we are in the courtroom, in the sanctuary, in the classroom, or in the workplace, we shouldn’t make judgements based on finances, we should seek to judge people rightly.
The truth is that God doesn’t make distinctions between His people based on socio-economic status. The only distinctions He makes are between those who belong to Him and those who don’t. And we know we can’t buy our way into belonging to Him! We can’t purchase our own salvation. We can’t buy our way into God’s family. Rich or poor, we belong to God through grace alone and by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8).
Friends, everyone should be welcome in the house of the Lord and treated with dignity and respect as fellow believers in Jesus Christ. “The rich and the poor meet together; the LORD is the Maker of them all” (Proverbs 22:2). Whether we have plenty or are in need, the Lord is our Maker. Whether we wear fine clothes or rags, we are all sinners saved by grace through faith. We have a right to gather with the rest of God’s people on the basis of our faith, not our finances.
Lord, thank You for not making distinctions between us based on our financial status. Help me to see others the way You do. I want to welcome everyone and worship with everyone, rich or poor, in Your name. Amen.