Text: James 2:1-9
I. How many of you believe you are prejudice? How many of you believe you are the victim of prejudice?
A. Prejudice is old, old problem that Christians have battled for centuries.
1. It means to have an opinion about something or someone before all the facts are weighed.
2. It is not wrong to make a determination or to judge something fairly or righteously and then decide to oppose it.
a. I Thessalonians 5:21-22 - We must decide between good and evil.
b. I Corinthians 5:9-6:5 - We are to determine matters between brethren
c. I John 4:1 - Test everyone to see if they are from God
3. But Christians are suppose to be holding up God’s standard. That standard requires righteous, just judgment. It requires that we look at the facts fairly and impartially. We measure against the truth and not our own opinions or our own preferences.
a. II Corinthians 10:11-13 - We measure against the rules God has laid down.
b. James 2:1 - No show of favoritism
c. Proverbs 24:23 - Not good to show partiality in judgment.
B. Prejudice appears in many forms.
1. We are most familiar with people who lump all people of a certain race or nationality into one group; deciding that all people of that group behave the same way.
2. Or all people of a certain occupation, such as an IRS agent or a policeman
3. The rich can prejudge the poor. The poor can prejudge the rich.
4. Prejudice appears when something new comes along.
a. “We’ve never done things that way before.”
b. There are some people who will only use the King James Version of the Bible because that is the version they grew up with.
c. All other versions are not as good because they don’t read the same.
5. People prejudge things because they heard from someone they trust that it is bad, but they never examine it themselves.
a. I remember hearing in Arkansas people saying “I always heard my papa say that them black people are up to no good.”
(1) It is wrong because it lumps all people of a particular skin tone into one group
(2) It is wrong because the source is another human, subject to mistakes
(3) It disrespects a fellow human being who was made in the image of God
b. Some have told me how bad the New International Version is, but when I ask which passage they objected to the most, they said “Well, I never studied it for myself, but I heard awful things about it.”
(1) I don’t like the NIV either, but I can tell you why.
(2) I don’t like people taking strong stands without knowing why they are standing.
(3) If it wasn’t so sad, it was almost humorous to hear objections to the “New International Children’s Bible” we are using downstairs.
(a) People decided there is something wrong because it has the words “new” “international” in the title.
(b) I can ask what verses do they object to, and they have no idea other than they always heard that the New International Version is bad.
(c) What is wrong with the New International? They have no idea.
(d) Then I point out that this particular Bible is the New Century Version and I ask if they know of anything against that version. They still have no idea.
(4) I don’t mind reasoned objections, but prejudging a matter based on no facts and no knowledge is an unrighteous judgment!
II. Christians have been the brunt of many false conclusions
A. John 7:22-24
1. The Jews have been upset with Jesus. Many times they thought he violated the Sabbath laws.
a. He healed on the Sabbath.
b. His disciples plucked grain on the Sabbath.
2. Jesus never violated the Sabbath laws. However, they assumed Jesus was wrong because it looked like he was violating the law.
3. Jesus puts it in proper perspective. They did religious acts (works) on the Sabbath. Wasn’t God healing similar?
4. The key is they judged by appearance, not by truth
B. Unfortunately, this jumping to false conclusions is a fact of life for every believer in God.
1. We can rail against it, but it will not remove it. Therefore, we must learn to deal with it. We have to plan for it.
2. Our influence on others for good is based on their acceptance of us.
a. Paul would do things, not because he had to, but because it furthered his influence on others - I Corinthians 9:19-23
(1) He bent his freedom to serve others who were prisoners of their own making.
b. Romans 12:17 - We are admonished to consider doing things that look right to other people.
(1) Sometimes we bend our freedom to keep a good relationship with other people.
c. This is why Paul insisted that others help carry the funds for the saints in Jerusalem - II Corinthians 8:18-21
(1) It is not that Paul could not be trusted. Nor was it wrong for Paul to carry the money.
(2) Rather Paul was concerned with how others would view the events.
(3) Honorable conduct before non-believers - I Peter 2:11-12
d. Even in worship, we do things to aid the influence we have over those visiting - I Corinthians 14:22-25
(1) The control over the use of foreign languages in service was to make sure others did not think worshipers of God were crazy.
C. What does this mean to us?
1. We provide checks and balances on those handling the checking account, so that there is no accusation of someone dipping into the Lord’s funds.
2. We dress up for services because others think that clothing reflects our attitude toward God.
a. Nowhere does the Bible say that a preacher has to wear a suit and tie. In fact, I can guarantee that Paul and all the early preachers did not wear a tie.
b. However, because visitors (and some Christians) expected it, I am willing to bend to aid my relationship with others.
III. We also need to hold up the mirror of Truth in the other direction. We avoid feeding the prejudice of others, but we must also fight the prejudice within ourselves.
A. Let’s take the matter of clothing. I was asked on a number of occasions to mention something about people’s casual dress in service.
1. “Surely, there is something in the Scriptures about it,” I was told.
2. We have approached the subject from the concern about our influence. I know the people here understand it. But I have seen a few better dressed to talk to a client or their boss than they do to meet with others in worshiping God. Their clothing says a lot about their attitude toward spreading the gospel.
B. However, I fear that, for many people, the expediency of looking good and binding it into a tradition is no different than what the Pharisees did concerning washing hands before eating.
1. Sure, washing hands is a good thing to do. It is healthy and sanitary. But it is not required by God.
2. Sure, dressing nice is a sensible, reasonable thing to do. But it is not bound by God either.
C. God does have things to say about our attire. Most are concerning being decently and modestly dressed.
D. But we need to also consider James 2:1-13
1. Just because the world judges based on appearance, it does not mean the Christian should follow along.
2. God is impartial between the rich and the poor - Job 34:19
3. Being poor is not shameful
a. But we insult the poor when we state that their clothing is not good enough.
b. Christians can be monetarily poor, but rich in spirit - Revelation 2:9
c. God chose the poor so no one can boast - I Corinthians 1:26-31
4. “As long as the clothes are clean”
a. In James 2:2, the word means cheap, shabby, dirty, filthy clothing
b. The question being addressed is do we make judgment because someone comes to worship, dirty, unwashed, smelly? Or do we treat everyone the same?
c. Do you think that because someone comes to worship smelling like a barn that they don’t care about God or that they have a casual attitude toward worship?
d. I knew a man who sometimes came to services smelling like cow manure. You see, he worked a dairy farm and cows won’t wait to be milked, they follow the pattern of the sun. Calves don’t come on nice schedules either. Sometimes, it was all this man could do to deliver a calf, run in, wash the worst of the crud off, and dash to church, but you know what? He was there, nearly every service — convenient or not! He didn’t let his convenience determine his worship to God. Sure, he was a bit fragrant at times, but he stood out as a strong testimony to dedicated service to God.
E. Shouldn’t we give of our best to God?
1. I agree, but what are we giving to God? The attractiveness of our appearance?
a. May I ask for a verse to back this proposition?
b. I have asked many in the past, and I have read the writings of many who argue this position, but I have yet to find a passage where God asks Christians to dress up for worship.
2. In fact, I wonder who people are trying to please, God or man? Somehow, I don’t think God is impressed by our outward appearance.
3. Yes, we need to give of our best to our Master (song)
a. The best time of our lives
(1) Ecclesiastes 12:1 - Serve God in youth
(2) Spend our time wisely - Ephesians 5:16, Psalms 90:12
b. The best place in our lives
(1) Matthew 6:33 - Putting God’s church first
(2) Giving ourselves wholly to reading, exhortation, and doctrine - I Timothy 4:12-13
4. God gave us His best — He sent His son to die on the cross for us
a. He gave me a gift that I cannot fully appreciate or offer anything back of equal value in return.
b. Don’t smudge what God has done for us by making rules where God has not.
IV. Brethren, let us fight the battle of prejudice
A. Recognize it exists and do not spoil your influence with others out of carelessness or in an attempt to make a statement.
B. Do not perpetuate prejudice by jumping to unjust conclusions.