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Book of James: Study 3 -- Judging by Outward Appearances

By Fiona Soltes | Fiona Soltes is a freelance writer living in Nashville, Tennessee. | December 29 2009

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.

Click here to see the second session.

Session Three

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?

If so, James 2 offers a good chance to level the playing field, helping teens realize each one of us has things we'd like to change about ourselves, ways we'd like the world to see us and insecurities we'd like to overcome. Asking God to give us His love for others—in addition to asking Him to help us see ourselves the way He sees us, too—can only reap good rewards.  

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