These are my notes from a sermon series. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.

I wish I could tell you that we live in world where there is no discrimination, but we don’t. I wish I could tell you that no one would judge you because of your skin color, but to often they do. I wish I could tell you that Christians would treat everyone with equal value as a person, but I cannot.

We live in a world where favoritism and discrimination in all their various forms are real and present. At some level, we all have been discriminated against whether that was because of how we looked, how we sounded when we talked, whether we were to skinny or to fat, whether we were athletic or not athletic, smart or not to smart. How you react when you are discriminated says a lot about you, but in James 2 God is not concerned so much about how you react when discriminated as He is in whether or not you are treating everyone as equally valuable.

Do you love people equally? Do you care for people equally? Do you value the poor man as much as you do the rich man? Do you accept the pretty person as much as you do the ugly person? The reality is, in your world you are going to be faced with rich and poor, smart and dumb, godly and ungodly, good looking and ugly, skinny and fat, white and black, hairy and bald, good smellin’ and bad smellin’ people. My question for you today is, does your faith in Jesus cause you to love, care, and treat everyone equally? Genuine faith causes you to love everyone equally.

This is the subject that James addresses in chapter 2. Look at verse 1, “My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” That’s a good question. James is asking, “How can you claim to have genuine faith in Jesus when you are prejudice, when you are a racist, when you are a bigot or chauvinist?” As a follower of Jesus you are going to show respect to everyone, you are going to be kind to everyone, you are going to love and care for everyone. It doesn’t matter who they are… red, yellow, black or white they are all precious in God’s sight.

So, let’s unpack chapter 2 and let’s pick up some truths that we need to consider today.

Favoritism is to give preference to one person or group over others with equal claims

First, favoritism is to give preference to one person or group over others with equal claims. Before we dive into this, let me point out a couple of things.

  • James begins verse 1 by saying, “My dear brothers and sisters….” This is a reminder that this problem of favoritism is a family problem. It’s a problem the family of God has, but shouldn’t have. So James is talking to believers, people who are followers of Jesus.
  • One more thing. When James begins a section with “My dear brothers and sisters,” he is getting ready to give us a spiritual punch to the body. He is getting ready to nail us to the wall and that’s what he does with this subject of showing favoritism.

Let’s think about this idea of “favor” or showing favoritism. Favoritism is showing preference for one person over another even though they have equal claim. James gives us one example of what he means. He could have gave us more, but he gave us one. James says in verse 2, For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?

James uses a simple illustration to be clear about his point. Two people come to church on Sunday. One drives a nice car, wears fine clothes, lives in the big house in town, and has the big salary. The guy is dripping with wealth. The other guy is poor. If he has a car it’s old and busted, has very little money, wears dirty clothes, and is obviously dripping with poverty. James is saying if we say to the rich man, “Welcome to church, glad you are here. Why don’t you sit with me and let me introduce you to some of the fine folks here at Genesis.” But then we ignore the poor guy and tell him, “Why don’t you sit on the back row.” And then we ignore him. James says, “Haven’t you segregated God’s people and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted?” You are making judgements about people based on your personal preferences and selfish motives. In other words you are “guided by evil motives.”

This is why God hates it when His people show favoritism based on appearances because it’s driven by selfishness, personal gain, and misguided motives.

This favoritism not only can happen at church, but it can happen in your family, at work, at school, and in any other place you can find yourself. Favoritism can go by many other names. On your outline I have given you some examples.

Words normally used in discussing favoritism


The practice of giving unfair preferential [pref-re-in-chul] treatment to one person or group at the expense of another.


The unjust or prejudicial [prej-a-dish-ul] treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.


Preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience. Dislike, hostility, or unjust behavior deriving from unfounded opinions.


The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.


Excessive or prejudiced loyalty or support for one’s on gender.


Intolerant toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.

For believers, like you and me, whatever form favoritism takes and wherever it shows up, we are to be above it.

Before we move on, let me be clear about something. Favoritism is to give preference to one person or group over others with equal claims. Don’t misunderstand this. There are times where you need to treat people differently because of who they are or the position they hold. That’s not favoritism. When I treat my wife better than other women, I am not showing favoritism… because the other women don’t have equal claim to me or my attention. She has a right or a claim on me to be treated differently. Because I give more attention to my children or grandchildren than yours is not showing favoritism… because your family doesn’t have equal claim to me or my attention. The sin of favoritism is based on evil motives that come from unfounded opinions or beliefs that are contrary to God’s Word.

Favoritism is an indication of spiritual immaturity

Number two, favoritism in an indication of spiritual immaturity. As followers of Jesus, how we treat people that are different than us, look different than us, hold different opinions than us, and live different than us can tell us a lot about where we are and how we are doing spiritually. Genuine faith, as it grows, begins to treat everyone equally. Genuine faith causes you to see value in everyone. But if you are segregating people and placing value on people based on how they look, what they sound like, and how much they have then you are not as spiritually mature as you think you are.

Look carefully at verse 1 again, “My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” When you placed your faith in Christ, Jesus forgave you. He treated you just like He does everyone who places their faith in Him for salvation. Your wealth didn’t matter, your skin color didn’t matter, your education didn’t matter, your appearance didn’t matter, your gender didn’t matter, your history didn’t matter and it didn’t matter if you were religious or not. You were treated equally. You were forgiven equally. You were adopted equally. You were saved equally. Romans 2:11 says, “God does not show favoritism” (NLT). To reinforce this truth Ephesians 6:9 says God “has no favorites” (NLT).

When you don’t treat people equally, then you are demonstrating that you don’t really understand what happen at the cross for you. This is why James asks, “How can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” Favoritism is an indication of where you are spiritually. At best, you are spiritually immature and at worst you are not a believer at all.

Favoritism dishonors people

Number three, favoritism dishonors people. In verse 8, James says that when you show favoritism toward the rich “you dishonor the poor.” Notice the principle here. When you show favoritism toward someone because of their skin color, you dishonor all the other people that don’t have that skin color. When you show favoritism because of someone’s gender, you dishonor everyone of the other gender. When you show favoritism to someone based on how they look, then you dishonor all those who don’t look like that. As followers of Jesus, we are about honoring people not dishonoring them.

Look at Romans 12:9 which says, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. 10 Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor” (CSB, vs.9-10). I love competition. It motivates me and inspires me. My goal is to honor you more than you do me, but your goal should be to honor me more than I do you. If we really value other people we will honor them because we honor everything we truly value. This is why the husband has his wife’s car parked in the driveway and his boat in the garage. To honor them is to speak to them with respect and give them your undivided attention. Followers of Jesus should be the best at honoring others because we know the real value of a human life. Favoritism dishonors human life by saying this person is more valuable than this other person.

Favoritism is overcome with mercy

Number four, favoritism is overcome with mercy. We don’t have time to look at everything James says about favoritism, but I do want you to see verses 12-13 which says, “So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. 13 There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you” (NLT). All your life you are going to judge people whether you want to or not. You can either judge them by their appearances, their age, their affluence, achievements, academics, or their athleticism. If you do that, you will show favoritism or you can judge everyone based on mercy.

Somewhere along your life you picked up an assumption or an attitude toward certain people who look a certain way, sound a certain way, or act a certain way and you ignore them, look down on them, and maybe even ridicule them. God says don’t do that. Instead, show mercy.

Mercy is compassion. Mercy reaches out to help those who have a need. Mercy is what causes you to love your enemy. Mercy is what motivates you to help a stranger. Mercy is kind when others are unkind. Mercy is loving when others are unloving. Mercy treats everyone equally when you are not treated equally. Any selfish person can show favoritism, but it takes a transformed heart to demonstrate real mercy. Mercy is your weapon against favoritism.

James mentions this mercy and favoritism again in James 3:17 which says, “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere” (NLT). Wisdom is demonstrated by God’s people when they are full of mercy and show no favoritism. Mercy says, “Even though they are different from me I have going to love them anyway. They may not be what I want them to be, but I’m going to honor them and show them respect.” Mercy says, “I’m going to treat everyone equally.”

Colossians 3:12, “Clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (NLT). You are to clothe yourself with mercy. For the follower of Jesus, mercy should be as common as the shirt on your back. It should not be a strange thing to find a believer who treats everyone with equal value.


Let’s wrap this up by looking at Proverbs 28:21 which says, “Playing favorites is always a bad thing; you can do great harm in seemingly harmless ways” (MSG). Genuine faith causes you to love everyone equally. Overtime your faith in Christ, your relationship with Jesus will change your heart about the people you are prejudice against. Your faith changes your mindset toward those you favor and those you dishonor. As your faith grows, you will begin to love and cherish the rich and poor, the educated and the uneducated, the cool and the non-cool, the good looking and the ugly, the man and the woman, the godly and the ungodly, the white and the black, and everyone else around you. As your heart is transformed by your faith in Jesus you will begin to have the heart of God for the world and you will begin to love the world like God does.