Treating Everyone the Same
By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell
Scripture Readings: James Chapter 2
Key Verse: James 2: 1
“My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.”
This one key verse in James summarizes the first half of this chapter in James—to treat everyone the same. Just like one cannot “judge a book by its cover,” the same is true for human beings and we aren’t qualified to judge them anyway. That’s not our job. This makes me think of several situations where I was made aware that someone was being judged according to his wealth and circumstances and treated differently because of it.
For example, I remember a person who went into an Antique shop at the mall and was dressed in jeans and a tee-shirt and was interested in the antiques. It was presumed by the shop clerks that this person had no money to buy antiques; however, the person in question had inherited a large sum of money, had grown up in a well-to-do neighborhood, and had a taste for fine things, even though on this occasion he was dressed casually for casual shopping at the mall. The clerks barely gave him the time of day, looked him up and down, then remarked to each other, “the problem with having an antique shop in the mall is that you get all kinds that come in to browse, people who can’t afford to buy the merchandise.” The customer who was ready to buy a piece of furniture overheard that remark and and decided not to buy anything from the shop because of their snobbish attitude.
Sometimes we make false assumptions about people. I knew a CEO of a business who lost his job and took a job with an investment firm selling stocks, bonds, and annuities. He assumed wrongly that one of his former employees had no money to invest and sneered at the person when encountering him casually in the community, laughing when engaged in conversation about his investment firm and assuming the former employee had no money to invest with him. What he didn’t know was that that person had inherited family money and had long invested money in stocks, bonds, and annuities with this man’s competitor.
James chides those who show favoritism for someone who has fine clothing or manners, treating that person well, and ignoring or snubbing the person who is poor and in rags. We are told we should not show partiality, but should follow the commandment, “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Whether rich or poor, we should treat others in a loving manner.
Later in this chapter, James says that we should remember to show mercy for those less fortunate than ourselves and that those who do not show mercy will be judged. “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” Jesus will be the one to judge our actions and he has made it clear how we are to treat others—we know that He is a merciful God and He expects us to show mercy, just as He has shown mercy to us.
Jesus said that when it is time for judgment, he will say to those who were merciful, “‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you invited me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me.’” (Matthew 25:34-37) and “ ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me.’” Maybe if we thought of everyone we encountered as if he was Jesus, we might treat him differently.
Who are we to judge someone’s wealth, their status, their faith? When we know their status and we know they have a lot, do we treat them differently? Do we treat them with compassion when we know they are in need or do we snub them as less worthy than ourselves?
Whether it’s a question of mercy or just offering a seat in the church pew—shouldn’t we treat everyone the same?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, you have included us as sons and daughters in your kingdom, even though we are not worthy without your forgiveness and grace. Help us to treat all people the same, following your commandment, “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Amen.