Sneetches and Zax

Pastor Bruce Simpkins
Renewal Community Church
Caldwell, Id
Preached: February 26, 2012

James 2:1-13

2:1 My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 3 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,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

 

5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?

 

8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

 

12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!

 

Some people are very used to being shown favoritism.  My mother-in-law (Delores) used to work in a California DMV a long time ago.  There was always a VERY long line to get up to the window and it was always a test of people’s patience.  One day Willie Mays the baseball player came into the DMV and walked right passed everyone in line and insisted on being served immediately.  Delores told him he would have to wait in line like everyone else and he became intensely angry.  He demanded to talk to a manager and made a big fuss and was finally allowed to go ahead of everyone else.  That’s favoritism.

 

It is the rich and the famous who get favoritism and expect favoritism.  Why?  Because with wealth and fame comes power and control.  They have the power to make your life very difficult if you cross them.  But God says that we are not to allow ourselves to be under their control, but under His control alone.  We let their money intimidate us or we may let their money infatuate us into thinking money will make our situation better than God can make it.

 

In fact, we should be on our guard towards the rich and famous, because their money has often spoiled them into thinking that it is just good business to foreclose on a property, no matter what it does to the person living there.  They are the ones who scoff at the faith of the poor and think they have no need of a true faith in God, because their wealth tricks them into thinking their money is all they need.

 

And when we show favoritism for one, it becomes an insult to everyone else.  Nobody likes the teacher’s pet because it is an insult to them.  Romans 2:11 God does not show favoritism

 

Do you think that pastors, or missionaries, or church elders will get any favoritism from God?  No.  In God’s eyes, everyone will be judged according to the Spiritual gifts God has given them individually.  Luke 12:48 From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

 

Each of us has been called for a purpose.  Some to speak, some to serve, some to pray, etc.  None of these purposes earns more favor with God than any other.  In fact, the ones that we think would earn us favor really just gives us a harder responsibility.

 

James 3:1  Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

 

Therefore, WE are to see people as God sees them.  If a rich person comes into church, we need to look passed his riches and encourage him, and spur him on to love and good deeds in Christ.  And if a poor person comes into the church, we need to look passed his poverty and encourage him, and spur him on to love and good deeds in Christ also.

 

Hebrews 10:24-25  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

 

Now, it isn’t just money that we show favoritism for.  When I was a boy going to church, there was a BIG pulpit at the top of several stairs and a platform with two BIG wooden chairs with soft and comfy padding and upholstery.  When a religious dignitary was visiting, he was always offered this place of honor to sit for the entire service . . . whether he said anything or not.

 

Oh, he is a man of great faith, so must be treated with favoritism!  New believers who were still learning and growing their faith, would try to be as inconspicuous as possible.  They would try to mimic the those with a more mature faith, but sometimes didn’t really even understand why they were doing those things.  They needed to earn the favor of the church by dressing, and behaving, and speaking like the people of that church.  This must never be . . . they had this same problem in the early church.  It had to do with vegetarians verses meat eaters and Saturday worshippers verses Sunday worshippers.  It’s like the Dr. Seuss’s Sneetches on the Beaches.

 

Page 3:  Now, the star-belly sneetches had bellies with stars.  The plain-belly sneetches had none upon thars.  Those stars weren’t so big.  They were really so small you might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all.

 

You might think that what to eat and when to worship would be such a small matter, but no.

And that is not good . . . these are the facts.  So they let these issues turn them into a Zax.

 

Page 27:  Read whole story of the Zax.

 

These issues of tradition were being held to with pride.  Is what we eat so important we can’t take one step to the side?

 

These issues of church tradition can still cause major contention among denominations even today.  It was never meant to be this way.

 

Romans 14:1-5

14:1 Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2 One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.

4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?  To his own master he stands or falls.  And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

 

5 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord.

 

Notice that the ones who are weak are the ones who keep themselves under the bondage of the law.  Certain traditions and practices die hard.  As a Jew who has always worshipped on Saturday, and always kept Jewish celebrations on the days they were supposed to, certain days are still holy and sacred to them.  These people are not to be looked down upon as deserving less favor from us than someone who has completely understood and embraced their freedom.

 

One of my many favorite verses in the Bible is Romans 14:4Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?  To his own master he stands or falls.  And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

 

In other words, you have your hands full being obedient to your master.  Be about the business He has given you.  God is very capable of directing and judging His servants without your help.  God knows how to make His servants stand before Him as He wants, AND He WILL do it.

 

Favoritism really comes down to judgment.  Our judgment of others and God’s judgment of us.  Paul points out another area we show favoritism.  Age.  When a young man preaches and teaches, older people may look down on them and say, “Don’t you try to teach me, you little whipper-snapper.  You’re still wet behind your ears young man”!  But age should not be a factor.  There may be a valid concern if the person is a new believer.  1Timothy gives a list of qualifications for an overseer or teacher/preacher in the church (which we will not address today), but one of the qualifications is that they are not to be a recent convert:

 

1 Timothy 3:6  He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.

 

A new believer may fall into the trap of becoming a condemner, instead of an equipper and allow himself to be the people’s savior and become like the devil by putting himself in God’s seat.  It is very hard for mature Christians to walk that line, but even harder for a new convert.

 

However, being young and a young convert are not necessarily the same thing.  These qualifications are clarified just a few verses later:

 

1 Timothy 4:12  Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.

 

So being young, and being young in the faith, are not the same thing.  There should be no favoritism toward an older teacher vs. a younger teacher.  If it is from God, it doesn’t matter who is bringing the message.  The proof is in the example the person sets before the people as how to live.  Teachers are held to a higher expectation than others because they are so visible.

 

But we find the key to this whole passage in verses 12 and 13.

 

12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!

 

At first, I breezed over the last part of verse 12, the law that gives freedom.  It came to me while praying over this verse.  It was like a flash of light.  Maybe you got it right away, but it took me a while.  I was struggling with several other passage in the New Testament that reminds us the law is bondage and a heavy load.  Freedom from the law seemed contradictory to the law giving freedom.  And then I suddenly realized there are two kinds of laws.  The Old Testament law that gives bondage and the New Testament law that gives freedom.  We are to speak and act as those who are judged under the New Covenant and not the Old Covenant.  The old law has thousands of commands to follow.  The new law has only one command to follow . . . Love.

 

Verse 13 puts the finishing touch on it.  Judgment without mercy is the old way.  If we are not lovingly merciful to others, we will judged in the same way.  That’s why the Lord ’s Prayer includes, “forgive us our debts AS WE FORGIVE OUR DEBTORS”.  Mercy triumphs over judgment.  When we are merciful there is no judgment at all !  And where there is no judgment, there is no favoritism.  We are merciful and gracious to the rich and the poor alike, to the old and the young alike, to the intelligent and the simple minded alike, to the ones drowning in sin and to the ones walking a straight path.

 

What are you doing to show mercy, and grace, and forgiveness, and impartiality to those within your circle of influence?  Are you like a Sneetch or a Zax?  Or do you reserve judgment and treat everyone with love and encouragement?  Let’s Pray.

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