This is the third of 13 sessions looking at selected passages from the Book of James. Click here to read the introduction and for an overview.
It’s so hard to keep our eyes on ourselves rather than compare ourselves to others, isn’t it? We live in a world that encourages the idea of “keeping up” with others. Perhaps it’s the house or neighborhood where we live. Maybe it’s the whiteness of our teeth or the size of our waist. Regardless, with the help of advertising, movies, TV and other media, we’re taught from an early age to consider how we compare.
The problem, however, is not just that this can warp our perception of ourselves. It’s also that it can distort our perception of others. When we look at anyone—from the person in our own mirror to those who surround us—through any viewpoint other than God’s, it’s all too easy to replace compassion and grace with judgment and contempt.
The Book of James hits on this idea in chapter 2. That’s where we find stern warnings about favoritism, as well as encouragement for doing right by loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Here’s the scenario: Two men come into a meeting you’re attending. One looks rich, but the other doesn’t. Perhaps you wonder—even subconsciously—what the rich man did so “well” that he deserved success. Maybe you ponder what the poor man did to earn his lot. The truth is, however, that their own actions may have had nothing at all to do with their circumstances. Beyond that, regardless of their circumstances, God sees them exactly the same; He sees them, along with you, as His beloved kids.
Take a look around your group. Have you noticed that anyone is judged particularly—especially because of something he or she can’t control? Is anyone being picked on for acne, financial circumstances or something his or her parents have done?
What the Word Says:
Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 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,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? (James 2:2-4)
How It Applies:
Rarely are outer appearances a true indication of inner worth. The Book of James warns us against treating some people differently than others. The only remedy comes by asking God to give us his heart for others rather than trying to work it up for ourselves; by focusing on our own blessings rather than being jealous of others’; and by asking God to show us how he sees us—as well as those around us.
Questions for group discussion:
· Do you think God sees everyone the same? Why or why not?
· How do you think God views you? Where do you get that idea?
· Go around the group so as many people as possible can participate (or, if the group is especially large, have students write their answers on pieces of paper). Ask: What is one thing you’d like to change about yourself? How do you think God can help?
· Why might being seen with a person who looks rich be more appealing than being with one who doesn’t?
· What do you think it means to love your neighbor as yourself?