The Problem With Partiality
Study of James
By Todd Stiles

Bible Text: James 2:1-13
Preached on: Sunday, February 6, 2016

First Family Church
317 SE Magazine Road
Ankeny, IA 50021

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Video Introduction:

We talk about the numbers a lot and there is 25 potentially million people… I mean it is an estimate, in our city.  And to think that a whole town, you know, maybe 30, 40,000 people in this one small area you can walk around that area for days and you won’t find one believer. You know, we walk up to people in the street, like you all experience.  And these kids have never even heard of who Jesus was.  It is just hard to even really comprehend that. And it is hard for us to even know how we fit into this and how are we going to even have an impact here like that is one of the things we struggled with was like: My, what do we do? Like what am I actually doing here and how am I supposed to put a dent in this? I mean right now we say that there has to be 15 churches planted every day at 50 people just to keep up with the population growth in our city.

Michael, first of all, thank you for sitting down with us here in South Asia. We really appreciate you taking the time and I just want to go back to really the start of God’s call in your life and how it all began.

I am a small town kind of guy from Kentucky.  I was blessed with an amazing family that really threw the gospel in my life.  And once I entered middle school I was actually at a camp and during that camp there was a pastor there one of last night’s and he asked anyone who feels a call to ministry please step forward so we can pray for you.  I was a sixth grader. I don’t think I fully understood what that meant, but for some reason God was tugging on my heart to go up there. I couldn’t really explain why. To this day I can’t explain why. But I went forward anyways. The potential of going overseas continued to come up in my life through reading the Word, through seminary classes and through reading different books.  God really began burning my heart.

I also started praying that the Lord would give him a burden for the nations. And actually kind of didn’t tell him that, but was just praying that.  You know, that like, Lord, you have given me that desire and I know that you have given me it for a reason.

Yeah. And so we continued just to push forward and one obstacle after another would happen and God would just take it down.  And so about 90 percent through the process we just knew, like, ok, this is what God has called us to do.

I am just curious. When you first kind of arrived here, what was that like? Tell me about that.

So first of all you are just completely exhausted, because we took a non stop flight all the way to South Asia. Get off the plane and everyone has told us and everyone has warned us that it is just really an attack on your senses. So the sight, the smells, the sound, everything is just kind of overwhelming.

The first week that Michael and I were here all we ate was peanut butter and jelly because we didn’t know what to cook or, you know, there is no ovens. All there is like a little toaster oven and all you have is a gas stove.

Seen so many people… I mean that was one of the hardest things for me is just getting over the amount of people that live here in such a concentrated area was just … it was hard to comprehend.

Traffic and trying to get to the grocery story, you know, trying to push a card and getting hit by five other carts as you are trying to get through the aisle and I also am …. love cleanliness, kind of an OCD person and so seeing trash all over the road all day being, you know, coming home and having dirt all over your feet, stuff like that, even though they seem kind of silly to other people are kind of a big deal for me.

Tell me a little bit about how he … how he works through you in

Yeah. So we have a lot of opportunities here to meet with pastors and local churches already established here in the city.  We leave within and begin discipling them and training them on what it means to multiply churches.

We want to see South Asians reach South Asia and then the nations.  And so just getting to spend time with even just right now two individuals who were just giving small, you know, snippets of truth and then seeing them go and be obedient with it.

And so our goal is really just to kind of put them above us and really pour into them and help them understand that you don’t have to have a special degree. You don’t even have to be able to read to go and make disciples. Like you are just called to go as a disciple. You are called to go and make disciples of all nations.

What is it that you would say God has kind of taught you during that period of your life?

True. We are just ordinary people that happened to move overseas to South Asia. This is our home right now and this is where we feel God has called us to be.

We are finite human beings, you know, and we rely on the Lord for everything, every breath, every skill that we are doing, every point in ministry and so when I am realizing how weak and just low and tired that I am is when God is going to be glorified the most because you can move overseas. You can live here. You can do life here and … but all with his help.

Sermon Introduction

I like Michael’s quote when he said: We are going to put them above us. Now when you hear that you think immediately, that is an awesome thing to do and we know how hard that is ourselves, even if it involves people that are like us.  Imagine living that out with people who are totally different than you. And Michael and Aubrey no doubt, when they moved to South Asia, met hundreds of people who were not like them in any way at least on the external, the  outside, right? And that is not that hard to understand, because the world is much flatter now. It is smaller. And you meet people that are really different than you every single week, for sure every month.  Maybe 30, 40 years ago that wasn’t quite as common. But today, with the way the world is just integrating, the globe is just really small in some sense.  I mean you meet people that are really different than you. They are just not like you. And could you and could I say, could we say: We will put them above us? We will live based on God’s values and not our own externals? Could we do that?  That is a big challenge, isn’t it?

The truth is, so let’s be even more realistic, we see people and meet  people who are different than us even without our own church.  In this room this morning there are people here that are different than you. I don’t mean just by race. That is true, too. But economically, in what they like and don’t like, there is just people who are different. How do you react in those moments to people who are different than you?  How do you respond? What decisions do you make? And what will you do and those kinds of questions I think are answered by James in chapter two with this small five chapter epistle. So will you turn there, James chapter two?

Let’s talk about how we react and deal with situations and people that are different and how we can avoid partiality, because there is a definite problem with it. While you are locating that chapter I would just like to remind you that the God who wrote this Bible has revealed to us his overarching passion and that is his glory be made known among the nations and it is our joy at First Family to do what?  Make his passion our mission.

Are you there in James two? All right. We are going to read these first 13 verses. We are going to answer the inherent question in the title of the message which is the problem with partiality. We are going to actually define that today by looking at three sections in these 13 verses, bringing out two, I will call them observations or strong suggestions and then we will kind of settle on one take home truth. I will take a couple of questions today, all right? So if you have a question or two, be sure to text them in. The number is on your study guide.  We will try to take those live in the service today.   I will only take two, however.  And then I would encourage you in tandem with this message, stop by our Facebook page or our website. We released a podcast on the law.

Now you may say: Todd, why on the law?  No, not the American law, not the speed limit and those kind of things.  The law, God’s law, the 10 Commandments and all that surround that. It is called different things. Two of the things the law is called are mentioned din this text.  It is called the royal law. It is also called the law of liberty. And so sometimes when we read about God’s law we have a lot of questions, like: How does that interact with us today? Does it apply? Are we under it?  Are we not? I have all these mixed opinions. So because there is a big topic, we released a podcast, pastor Chris, myself, pastor Carlos and Timor. And I think Joe may have been in there as well, our church planter for Utah. And we just kind of talked about the Christian and the law, God’s law. So go by and check that out. I won’t spend a lot of time on that topic, because we did on that podcast.  But that is going to work in tandem with his message as we look at this situation called the problem of partiality. And James uses the law to kind of make some of his points here, all right?

So three sections, two suggestions, one truth. Can we like three, two, one, let’s roll. Are you ready?

Here is what he says in these 13 verses. I will just kind of read through them section by section. He says, first of all, in the first section, verses one through four:  My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. So here is in a very clear manner what we should not do. He starts off with a negative, doesn’t he?  And James is kind of a put the cards on the table kind of guy. So he spells it out pretty clearly. Do not show partiality or, most literally here, don’t just receive the face.  If you took the Greek language and you understood the words show no partiality it would be that I am just receiving your face. I am not looking beyond it. I am not looking inside it.  I am not looking at anything around it. I am just taking what I initially see, your face. It is an external approach to making a decision. It is an appearance based estimation. The Greek language brings that out very well. We translate that: Show no partiality or favoritism. And then notice this phrase: As you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. I love this verse and here is why. It really blends shoe leather theology.  Excuse me. It really blends belief and behavior into what we are calling this serious, shoe leather theology. Because he says—look at the word show. It is an action verb, right?  It is something we are not to do.  But he then talks about something we believe.  As we hold to this belief, as we hold to our system of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Here is three titles that refer to not only his humanity, but also his deity, his prophetic fulfillment as the Messiah and then his ascension, the Lord of glory. So here is a belief that we hold in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory and he says we are not to act in a way that would betray that.  So that is just a perfect blend of our belief and behavior.   He is saying we should not act in ways that are rooted and based in favoritism or partiality.

He then gives an example of how this happened, I believe, in their time frame. Some believe this may have been referencing a judicial setting in which some people show up to be, let’s say, judged or evaluated in the case of law. I don’t believe that is really the meaning here.  Most scholars and commentators believe this just speaks of that normal gathering of believers, probably in someone’s home, by the way.  And so the reason I hold to that view or see it that way is because the idea of the if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing he comes into your assembly, the idea is that he is unexpected.  Like, oh, look who showed up today. If you have a judicial setting you are probably not going to have an unexpected visitor in that sense. So I don’t think it is in this judicial setting. Some think that because of the use of the word law here. But I think it is just more of this general gathering of those dispersed believers in someone’s home and he says in verse two a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, he comes into your assembly and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in. And notice what happens. You see both of these men, he says, and you pay attention, you give consideration to the one who wears the fine clothing. And so as a result, you say: Sit here in a good place.   So you see what he has on.  You receive his face and you treat him differently . That is all that is happening here. It is not hard to understand.

But you say to the poor man: You stand over there. One guy gets a seat in a good place. The other guy gets the standing room only, right? And what has based… what has motivated these decisions is merely what he sees on the outside.  That is what James is explaining. He says: When this happens, verse four, have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? So when you receive the face only, when you make your decisions about people’s value and worth based on only what you see on the outside, the Bible says that that is partiality, that is favoritism. But then he describes it in verse four by saying you are making distinctions  among yourselves and you are actually a judge with an evil thought.

Now let’s explain that phrase, because verse four gets deeper than verse one. Verse one is a single word that says: Don’t do what? Don’t show partiality. But verse four tells us why we are doing that.  Now think with me. Stay with me. Don’t lose me. Look in verse four, would you? Do you see the word distinctions?  It comes from the same root word as the word doubt in verse six of chapter one. Are you looking over there? It says that we are to ask in faith with no doubting.  I want you to connect those two words. They are the same root word.  Here is why. When we make a judgments on appearances only we actually, according to verse four… and the context would be this. We are doubting what can happen among ourselves. We are kind of segregating, compartmentalizing people based on what we see and because we need to fix a problem or solve a situation or meet a need, we are thinking: Well, they could never solve that problem, because look at them. But, man, he or she looks like they could. So I will appeal to them to solve my problem.

Now watch this. Here is the root issue. I will appeal to them because they look like they can help me instead of trusting God.  See the passage really fits in with chapter one well. Remember, James is writing not with chapter divisions like we read it, ok?  And if you connect all the dots here is what is happening. Twelve tribes dispersed throughout a pagan area under persecution. James says in the middle of this ask God for wisdom in your trials.  And trust me that I will give you that wisdom to meet your need if you endure to the end you will be rewarded. I will show you what I am doing.  And so the temptation was, then, in the middle of those trials as they meet different people to say: Well, God is not really doing what he said he would do, I don’t think. He is not coming through for me.  But that guy over there, man, he is dressed to the hilt. He drove up in a nice chariot. He has got a nice set of horses.  Yeah, let me see what he can do to help me in my situation. Does that make sense, guys?  And so suddenly appealing to people based on what think they look like, trusting people, making decisions about what they can do for us based on appearances is really an attack on God’s ability to meet our needs, because underneath all of their desires, underneath their actions, their favoritism, their partiality, was this sense that, you know what? God is not going to meet my needs. I doubt God can do what he said, so I will categorize you, discriminate and show partiality to try to get what I think I need. In that way, you are a judge with an evil thought. In other words, you are trying to get what you want. That is selfishness.  And you are doing it by doubting God and then distinguishing among the people based on appearances how you can get what you want.

And so the illustration in verses two and three really describe the people in verse four. That is how this happened. So we are to show no partiality. We are not to just receive the face only, but we are to hold on to our faith in Jesus Christ and make our decisions based on his values, not man’s.

You say: Why do you say that, Todd? Because verses five, I think, through 11 show us God’s values. You might could say it like this.  This second section, five through 11 shows us why we should not do verses one through four, ok? So if verses one through four say don’t show partiality, because really what you are doing is you are doubting God.  You are categorizing people to get your own way.  Here is why we should not do that. I think he lists three reasons. I will just give them to you briefly.  Because it distrusts God. It contradicts his values. And it disobeys his Word. Let me show where I find this.

Look at verse five.  Listen, my beloved brothers. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs with the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him? In other words, you are seeing the poor and thinking they have got nothing to, quote, unquote, offer you. God could never use them. Have you seen them?  He is saying: Don’t you know that God has actually chosen the poor to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom?

Verse six.  But you have dishonored the poor man. How have they dishonored the poor man?  If you go back in the text you will see that verse three says that they made their decision based on what they saw and they said: Sit down on my feet or stand over there. In that way they dishonor the poor man.

And so partiality not only mistrusts God because it says: God, you can’t make meet my needs. I will have to do that by finding the best person in the crowd. It also contradicts God’s values because God honors and uses all people, not just those who are from our perspective wealthy.  Look at what he says in verses six, seven, continue on. He says: Are not the rich the ones who oppress you and the ones who drag you unto court?  Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

Now let’s pause here and say this about rich people.  Because you may think: Well, Todd, that is putting all the rich people in a weird category here.  Historically what is happening here is this.  The dispersed tribes, the Jews were now living, many of them, homeless, jobless in a section of society with lots of Gentiles, lots of persecution happening.  And so because many of the Jews were driven out of their homeland, they had to find some kind of work. And what was happening was sometimes, not in every case, but in some cases  many of the Gentile employers, many of the pagans who owned businesses or ran operations in that area would employ the Jews that are very, very low pay rate.  But some money is better than no money.  And they are thinking about how they can get their feet back under them and get some traction.  And so often these Jews would accept some employment that was very harsh and very difficult.  Historically it has been reported that sometimes these pagan owners then would pay such a low rate that they could not meet their bills, the Jewish people, and then on top of a terrible job, they would go in and take their stuff as payment. So it is kind of a scheme, a very wicked, very wrong. Thus, you could see why they were under a trial. So there is a lot of difficulties here.

These were the rich men being referenced here, the ones who we oppressing God’s people, the ones who were dragging them into court and saying: Well, you couldn’t meet your bills, you didn’t make good on your obligations. I let you borrow this much. You didn’t pay up. You might say: Well, you didn’t even pay me enough to pay my bills. Well, that is just your choice. I am going to take you stuff now to make it even.  I mean, the whole thing is just a racket, almost. They are in this. They are under this.  There is persecution on top of that. They are blaspheming God’s name and yet this is the rich person, the rich Gentile unsaved, perhaps, owner, businessman who walks into their assembly. Maybe he is looking for employees.  Maybe he is looking for {?} to help with his operation. And because the Jew in his moment of trial says: If I just had a tenth of what he has I would be out of this mess… He makes a decision based on the face and he kind of plays up to the rich while had despises and dishonors the poor.

So James is not saying that rich people inherently are wicked and bad.  In fact, it is not money that is the problem. It is the love of money. Are you with me?  There are many rich people who love God who employ people and do fabulous in pursuing God’s purposes. So don’t read this and say: Oh, I guess rich is bad and poor is good. That is not what James is saying. Historically what he is saying is there are unsaved rich people. There were unsaved rich people who were abusing God’s people and yet you play up to them when they pop into your assembly. He says: Guys, this is not right. It is showing partiality. And it contradicts God’s values, because you see, God doesn’t look at your economic bottom line to see if he is going to use you or to see if he is going to save you. Amen?  He doesn’t look at your checking account, your 401k or your portfolio to decide: You know what?  I think you have got what it takes to be used in my service. He doesn’t look at your income, your job, your titles. God doesn’t look at that.

Watch this. God doesn’t just receive the face. He doesn’t just look at you and say: Oh, this is what I see on the outside in the moment, so I will. That this not what God. God looks deeper at the heart.

And we know that God uses all kinds of people. He saves all kinds of people.  And so when we play up to the rich who are contradicting by their lifestyle and by their manners God’s values.  We plugged it in. We actually contradict God’s values. So we mistrust God. We contradict his values and then, verses eight through about 11 show us that we are really disobeying the law.  What he does here is says in verse eight—look with me—if you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, which, here it is: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  Then you are doing… well, he makes a very simple statement that if you do what God says about loving your neighbor, he calls that the royal law. We call it the royal law for this reason. Loving God and loving man seems to be the two summary statements of all the law.  So in that way it is kind of the essential nature of all of the law. It is the royal law. It is the high, highest law. It is the way they kind of put it into a summary. He just says here: listen.  If you have fulfilled that, you are doing well. But if you show partiality—again, connect back to verse one—if you receive the face only, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. And some Jews must have been thinking this.  Well, this is not that bad. I am in a tough situation.  Surely God is not going to think it is that big a deal if I just receive the face, if  I just say: Well, maybe you can meet my need, because God is not really doing his part, it seems. And what James does here is he says: You know what? Disobeying the law and showing partiality—which, by the way, in the law, Leviticus 19:10 actually talks about this very issue. So if you are a Jew, you would understand what James is mentioning. You would reference: Ok, yeah. In the book of Leviticus there are parts about not showing partiality and having equal assessments based on the right way and showing mercy for the right reason and for the right effect. I mean, these would all come to your mind.  And suddenly you would realize: That is part of the law, just like—look what he says here: The commands not to commit adultery and not to murder.  Because he makes this point. If you keep the whole law, but you fail in one point, you become accountable for all of it. You see, the law is not like a set of bowling pins.  We roll the bowling ball and we knock down here and we say: Well, you know, I am a seven-tenths good today.  That is not how the law works. The law is like this. The law is like a pane of glass. And one chip ruins the whole glass.  A small crack could shatter the whole thing.  And James is saying: If you break even one small point, if you break Leviticus 19:10, but still keep Leviticus 20, not murdering, no adultery, he says, the truth is: You then broken God’s law, just like those who may have committed adultery or committed murder. And you are accountable to God for it.

What is he doing? He is escalating the sin of partiality. You catch that? He is elevating the seriousness of the situation? And he is saying: Guys, when you show partiality, you not only are mistrusting God, because you are trying to get your way through the human mechanisms based on external appearances. You are not only contradicting God’s values, because he uses all kinds of peoples and all kinds of situations for his purposes, you are also disobeying his Word.  And that is why in verse 12 he gives this clear, unavoidable action point. And, by the way, he does again use action verbs. I love this about James. Doesn’t he?  So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. That is odd, because you think if you think if you are judged under a law, how am I to speak and act in that? That seems almost like an odd statement. I don’t want to act and speak as someone being judged by a law, but what kind of law is this?  It is the law of liberty.

Now I think personally—and I can show you some scriptures that would kind of form a thread that this is a great reference to, I think, the effect of the gospel. There was a law that stood against us, but Jesus Christ came and fulfilled every bit of that law perfectly, under God, presented that to God, not only in his life, but in his death.  God saw that and in the resurrection declared himself to be satisfied. He rent the curtain in two showing his wrath was appeased, fulfilled and so you and I are no longer judged by a law that we can’t fulfill. We are now seen through a savior who has fulfilled every bit of it. So the law that God the Son fulfilled in sacrificed to God the Father—watch this—has actually freed you to—now I am going to say this. Listen very carefully—to obey the law.  What? Yeah.  Christ’s complete fulfillment of everything that God demanded has freed you, not to live licentiously and selfishly, but to live in obligation to God under his law to do what? To love him and love others, the royal law.  In fact, Galatians five spells this out.  Galatians five talks about how we are not under the law. We have been set free and don’t get entangled again. But then he comes around in verse 13 and he says: But, by the way, you have not be set free to do anything you want to do, to live selfishly, carnally. You have been set free—and he uses these exact words—you have been set free to serve one another.  Galatians five.

So, guys, when he talks here about speaking and acting as those who will be judged under the law of liberty, man, we are held to a law that says: Wow, you are free from condemnation, but you are not free from expectation. And what is the expectation?  That we would love God and love others, the royal law. But what drives us? Not the fact that one day, oh, my goodness. I hope I have loved enough.  I hope I didn’t violate one point.  We already have. But Jesus did it.  And so his perfect fulfillment frees us. We have been freed by the law of liberty. Mercy at the cross, mercy triumphed over judgment in the greatest way.  And as a result we get to live in freedom serving each other, not trying to make sure we keep enough points with God, which is why I think he ends with this beautiful phrase: For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy.  If you live in a way—and I think he is here giving a proverb, by the way.  He just kind of… in kind of a wise way saying:  This is kind of how life works. If you live in such a way that you are going to extract your decisions, you are going to make your investments based on only what you see on the outside, the face, then don’t be surprised if that is what happens to you.

And then he makes this four word phrase that we love.  Mercy triumphs over judgment. I think he is thinking here of the final mercy when at the cross when God did not ignore justice, by the way, but he met justice through Jesus Christ and he let you and me, he let us be the ones who benefit.  And so now in light of this benefit of the gospel, of the grace of God, we live what? Under the law of liberty free to serve each other.

So the three sections, the three statements, the three areas are quite simple.  The first one says what we are not to do, verses one through four.  Don’t show partiality. Verses five through 11: Why? Because you are mistrusting God, contradicting his values and disobeying his Word.  What should we do?  We should speak and act as gospel centered people knowing that we have only been freed because someone met the law and was gracious to us by his own mercies. So let’s live in that way.

Now let me make a note here. Verse 13 is not a command to ignore justice.  My kids loved verse 13 when they were little.  Julie laughed because she remembers these days.  They would be in trouble and one would say: Well, mercy wins over judgment. You know, like don’t spank me. Have mercy, you know? If you are here and you are a kid, great idea, by the way. It works sometimes. You get to your parents’ heart. They get a lump in their throat and sometimes they do ignore justice and they just… I don’t have time. Forget it. We will, you know… that is a confession of a parent right there, isn’t it?

This is not a verse to ignore justice. It is a verse that commands showing mercy in the right way. And this verse has been misused to say: Well, see, mercy wins over judgment. So forget judgment. Forget justice. Forget making the right decision. Just say: Ah, let it pass.  That is not mercy and that is not justice. What this verse is calling us to do is show mercy in the right way, which is watch this: Without favoritism.  Because the point of the chapter is: You are looking at the face only. You have no sense, apparently, of God’s values or of his purposes or how he works and so you only make your decisions based on what you see and then you kind of either do this or do that, give mercy, give judgment.  That is just a completely unstable approach. Instead, be willing to let mercy win and yet be willing to seek justice. Do both, but do them in the right way. Show mercy for the right reason with the right result. Eventually, he says here, we can live that way ultimately because we have been shown that very kind of mercy, the kind of mercy that ultimately won even though justice was done, because Jesus Christ gave his life and his death in complete fulfillment of the law that we were required to keep. So there was justice, but yet there was mercy.

A lot can be said here. I just wanted you to kind of see these three sections: What we shouldn’t do, why we shouldn’t do it and, instead, what we should do. All right? Now here is two strong suggestions for you in light of this chapter.  These won’t be on the screen behind me. If you want to, right them down, talk about them later if you can. But two strong suggestions in light of these three simple paragraphs, these three simple sections about partiality, which, by the way, if you are curious what is the problem with partiality, the problem with partiality is it betrays our theology. That is the simple, succinct understanding. And I don’t want to preach for 45 minutes and you not have the simple answer to the message.  The problem with partiality is that it betrays our theology. It says: I trust God in spite of what I see.  See, that is what our theology says. Partiality says: I am not trusting God and because of what I see, I will trust man. That is partiality.

So here are two strong suggestions to help us not betray our theology, but to live out what we say we believe. First of all, learn the difference between partiality and discernment.  Nowhere in this text does James call us to be undiscerning.  He calls us to show what? No partiality, which is, as we understand the text, making decisions based on man’s appearances, just receiving the face. But discernment is making decisions, investments, evaluations based on God’s values. And that is ok.  In fact, Paul said in 1 Corinthians that the godly man, he will discern all things.  But the godly man does not use man’s appearances to do that. What does he use? God’s values.  In this text I think the one he is talking about this that God can use any one at any time for his purposes regardless of their economic level.

Here is a classic case when this happened. You may remember it, you may not. Not everyone is always at the same level with their Bible knowledge. I will just tell you this brief story about David, Israel’s greatest king. Before he was anointed king, this is in the book of 1 Samuel, he was just a shepherd. And a lot of you know this story. You are already ahead of me, but not everyone knows this story.  So for those who are recently saved or just come to Christ or those who are perhaps never been in church or maybe they are just here kind of skeptical of this whole Christianity thing. They are listening. Here is how the Bible just weaves together and is so consistent.  In the Old Testament, 1 Samuel, God is looking for a new king because Saul, by the way, was appointed as a king so that Israel could be like the other nations. That was their carnal desire. And so they chose a king, initially Saul who was head and shoulders above others. He had the look of the other nations’ kings, interesting, isn’t it? I mean they look at the face and say: Wow, Saul, you have got what we think we are after.  We don’t know what is in your heart, but, man, you have got the look, bro.  So Saul is king and God says: I will let you have the full weight of your sinful desires.  So God’s sovereignty is in play. Man’s responsibility is in play.

Well, Saul eventually becomes what he really is in spite of how good he looked. God wants a new king, a shepherd whose name is David. But when Samuel went to anoint this king, even though Saul was still officially reigning, they went ahead and they were going to anoint David and he was going to take the throne later. When Samuel went to do this, they brought seven brothers into the house and lined them up.  And Samuel and he was a godly man, a prophet. And he said: Ok, it has got to be one of you seven. The father did the same thing and the seven brothers are in the same boat. We are all thinking: Man, these are the brothers that will surely take Saul’s throne. I mean, they are good looking guys.  They are stout. They are strong. This is the kind of person who would be king for sure.

At the end of that story none of them were the one. So Samuel says: Well, do you have any other sons?  And the father says: Yeah, I have got this kid out in the field.  He is not king material. He is a shepherd.  But guess who God had anointed to be king? You are with me, aren’t you? The shepherd boy.  And it is within that story that we hear this phrase, which our culture uses, but often they don’t know where they got it. Here is where this phrase comes from. Man looks on the what?  Outward, but God looks on the heart.  You see, a lot of times our world will use that. They have no idea where it came from. That came from a biblical story about true discernment based on God’s values, not partiality based on man’s values.

So I want to make sure you are clear on something. We will obey this verse and we will show no partiality. So whether you are going to South Asia. David Nelson and I are going there tomorrow morning, be in that same region as the video. We will be around a lot of people really different than us. No partiality. We are not going to judge by the face whether it is in Ankeny, Iowa and you can meet a lot of different people. We are not going to in our church judge by the face.  We are not going to make our decisions based just on what we see, your economic level, your address, whether you like certain foods or don’t, whether you are large or small, fat or skinny, what your hobbies are, your preferences, whether you eat organic or don’t eat organic, whether you like range free or caged free or whether you work out or don’t work out. Could I go through any more lists for you? All of those things, guess what? They are all externals.  And they are not going to be the determining factor whether we say: Oh, God can’t use you. Oh, he will use you.  That is not happening in this church. That is just receiving the face and there is something deeper always going on in God’s economy.

But we will encourage you to be discerning, which is to make your decisions and investments based on God’s values, ok?  So don’t expect us to walk out of here today saying: Well, man, don’t ever judge. Don’t ever discern. I don’t even believe that. I believe it is right for godly people to discern and to judge.  But you must discern and judge the right way using God’s values, not man’s externals. Fair enough?

So there is your first strong suggestion. Learn the difference between partiality—that is man’s externals—and discernment—that is God’s values.

Second strong suggestion. Live up to the law of liberty, not down to the law of lists. A few minutes ago I just kind of rambled off a number of lists. Now, I may have gotten some of those phrases wrong, because I am totally not aware of all the lists in this room. But I guarantee you. There is a lot of lists in this room. And did you know that your list may be a good list, but it should be a list, if it is not in the Bible, it should be a list for you.  And I am going to be blatantly clear here, ok?  If you can’t take the Bible and say: Here is what God’s Word calls all of us to do. You may enjoy your list. Go for it. If your conscience and the Holy Spirit are leading you in x direction, go for it.  But don’t strap that list on my back or on someone else’s back unless you can say: Hey, here is what God’s Word says to all of us.

Yeah. Is there other times when wisdom is appropriate? Common sense and deferring so that other people aren’t affected wrongly. Sure, I get all that. I am with you on that. But if we are not careful, we are going to… Christendom in general, at least in America, is teetering, bordering on creating an immense amount of lists that real Christians have to follow.  That scares me a little bit, because it is living down to the law of lists, not up to the law of liberty. You see, we have been set free, Galatians five says, not to pursue our own desires, to live for ourselves. We have been set free to serve each other.  And it is not beneficial or edifying in serving someone to then bring them my list and say: By the way, did you know that these 17 things are actually signs of really good believers?  Jason, did you know that? Have you read my list of 17 things? Can I meet with you over coffee, talk about them?  Because, man, you are really falling short, dude.

It is like that is not the law of liberty. That is not serving him. Now I just want to… I just need to make sure you understand that.  We live up to the law of liberty. We have been set free so that we can serve. So I might go to Jason. We might have honest talks about how to best parent, how to be the best kind of husband, employee. We can talk about these things. At the end of the day the only thing that says we both have to do something is when God’s Word says it. Beyond that I say: Man, I am going to pray for you as you seek God’s will and as you seek to live out what he has called you. I am praying for you. He does that for me. So we have honest talk. We have conversation. We push each other. I am with all of that.  But I don’t take my list and put it on his back, unless God’s Word says it. Does that make sense, guys?  See, that is serving each other. That is not living down to the law of lists.

Now I want to answer a question here. How do you know if you are living down to the law of lists? How do you know if that is happening? I think Galatians five, which talks about this whole idea of living up to the law of liberty and not down to the law of lists, I think it gives us a clue, because after he talks about what the law of liberty does for us, he says: If you don’t live this way, watch out as you bite and devour one another, because you will eventually be consumed by one another.  He goes right to how we use our words, how we use our tongue, which, by the way, is James’ next topic in chapter three. And I think the first tell tale sign that someone is living down to the law of lists and not up to the law of liberty is when their words are consistently critical and condemning about everyone else just doesn’t get it. No one else is really where I am.  No one eats as well as me. No one works out like me. No one is as disciplined as me. Suddenly like they are the standard and not Jesus. And we are all trying to climb up to their level. That is a problem.  That is living down to the law of lists. And if right now you are squirming and you are worried: Oh, man, that is me that he is describing. My, the muscle between these two lips… what you have actually done, watch this, is you are showing partiality.  You are looking at people and you are making estimations about who they are and their value to God’s kingdom based on what you see. You receive the face only and then you see: Well, I will invest in the people who can give me what I want. I will spend time with those who can help me further what I am after.  You are doing exactly what James two talks about.  You are showing partiality instead of being discerning and trusting God.

So my two strong suggestions would be: Learn the difference between partiality and discernment and then live up to the law of liberty. Serve people in love. Don’t live down to the law of lists.

Let’s put this in one take home truth, can we?  In fact, would you read it with me? Here is the simple sentence by which I think we can kind of take all of these verses. We will put a handle on all of these verses and take it home. Together. Ready? Here we go.  Shoe leather theology means because I trust God completely, I will love others impartially treating them in a manner based upon God’s values, not man’s externals.  That is what we are committing to and that is what God’s work calls us to, living with an impartial, yet discerning approach to people. Yes, not just the one’s in South Asia or Europe or Australia or even the South or the North or the West, but even the ones right here in the Midwest, right here in Iowa, right there in Ankeny, right here at First Family Church, those who are really different than you and come into our assembly. Don’t make your investments, evaluations, decisions based only on what you see in their face.  Be discerning, not harshly and know that God can use anyone for any reason for his purposes.

Let’s take two questions if we have them in, can we?  Does God show partiality when it comes to salvation since he chooses some over others? And did he show favoritism towards Israel over other nations?  No, God does not show partiality when it comes to salvation. First of all, God… it is impossible for God to commit this sin. Right? So what God does show is sovereign selection to accomplish his ordained means, or, excuse me,  his ordained purposes.  Ok?  So I would say and I don’t think this person asked this question to indict God, so don’t hear this wrong.  But I think we have to be careful that we don’t say: Well, then God is being partial. God can’t be partial. He is God.  It is impossible for God to sin.  It is impossible for God to lie. God can do no impartial … excuse me. God can do no partial thing. He can’t. He can’t show favoritism. But God does in light of his ultimate goal to save to himself a people from every nation, language, tribe and tongue he has selected by his own sovereign right the way to do that.  And he did that by beginning with the nation of Israel, Abraham. So, yeah, I don’t think God has been partial at all. He has simply been sovereignly selective and he has the right to do that, because he is what? He is God.  But in that he did not sin. He has not sinned. Nor will he ever sin.

It is a good question. I hope it is a clear enough answer. Let’s take one more, can we?

Is there a good passage to reference in the context… oh, is this a good passage to reference in the context of racism?  I think it could be one that could be used principally, I think, because there were probably historically two races going on here. There were the Jews being persecuted and the Gentiles who were the ones probably doing much of the oppression. So you probably could use this. I want to make sure, though, that I think the main thing—and Chris bring this out in your compass this week—this is primarily an economic passage.  It is primarily showing favoritism to those who are rich and then shunning the poor because you think the rich can meet your need in the middle of the trial you are in. Does that make sense?  I think that is what is happening. And the rich are probably in this case, historically, they are going to be the Gentiles who are unbelievers. So you might could get there secondarily, so yes. I would say to the question:  possibly yes.  But more textually you will need to say this is probably more of an economic passage. I would rather use the one—I think it is in Colossians or Galatians. I forget my brief lapse of memory there when Jesus… when Paul writes that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek nor bond nor free, but Christ is all and in all. I think that is one of our best passages to speak against racism.  All right, or class societies.  This one here is primarily economic, but you can get to the racism part in the secondary manner.

Before we close… as we wrap up and move to our responsive time I want to share this one last thing with you.  I saw this play out most notably when I was in college.  We had a youth group of about 100 junior highers. I was about 20 years old and I preached my heart out every Sunday night to them. I preached my heart out every Wednesday night to them. We did activities. I was single. Man, I just was all into junior high youth ministry. I loved it.  And our youth group was within a church, within a Christian school and so we had kind of a bubble effect on them.  We were in Chattanooga so we had a city. We loved that city. But the truth was we almost felt sheltered like we lived within the Christian school which was within a really good church. Our church had like 7000 in it. So you could almost go to kindergarten and graduate seminary and never know that there was a world who was dying and going to hell right around you.  That wasn’t the intent and it wasn’t meant, but it almost had this bubble effect. Do you know what I am saying?

Well, as a junior high youth pastor I could see this happening. Man, these junior highers, they love God, but they have no idea that there are people all around them who are different than they are, lost. And so I kept thinking: How can I show them that people matter, that God’s values matter, that just because someone is different and may not be where they are doesn’t mean they are not worthy of the gospel message. And so I talked to our youth leaders and we had this outing.  And it was going to be outside in kind of a remote area and they had like a shed building and we are going to invite all the youth group to bring all their friends, kind of the typical outreach event. And I had one of our youth leaders dress up and he was a freshman in college so he looked young and he… I said: You need to make yourself look even younger. I need you to look really dirty and kind of rotten. I need you to look really look wicked and pagan and lost. So they dirtied him up, messed his hair up, got some kind of wig.  They did all kind of things and they got, you know, cigarette packs, put them in his sleeves, rolled them up. They did everything they could to make him look like this kid is trouble, right?  We did everything we could on the outside to make you think that. We wanted you to receive his face like: Wow, don’t get near me.  Had the event. He shows up. He is really a youth leader, but no one picked him out. It worked perfectly. No one even recognized him. And, by the way, I got a lot of parents mad at me, but it was worth it.  So we have the event. I get up at the end.  I am so glad you came. Let me share with you a little bit. And then I said… in fact, I think I will just have one of our guests share, because this was all about guests and just reaching out and I notice we have a guest that hardly anybody talked to him.  And what… immediately all the junior highers are getting nervous, like, man, Todd has never done this. He never gives us speaking time. What is he doing? And how is this working?  And so I said: I think aren’t you… and I forget what name we used. You know, Joe. Can you come to the front?  So Joe gets up. He starts walking to the front. Man, it is… you could just feel the tension and the nervousness. He gets to the front and he takes off this hair thing that he made for him, kind of wipes his face and it is Michael Grinnel, their youth leader.

They are just staring at him like: We know that guy.  But we acted like we didn’t want to get to know that guy.  He shared a little bit about not showing partiality. I talked a little bit about it and I remember that day watching our junior high youth group change in how they received people in the assembly.  It didn’t last forever.  But for a few months, maybe ea year or so, I remember when we would have youth group, man, all the junior highers were watching the door and when they would see someone that looked like, well, you are obviously not from around here, they made a beeline. Ok, let’s see if it is somebody that we actually really know. Do you know what I mean? They were kind of checking him out.

Can I be frank with you? It drove home the point perfectly.  But too often we do receive the face only and as a result we disobey God, mistrust him and contradict his values. How much better it would be to discern using God’s values, that God can use anybody for any reason. Let’s not let anyone be outside of the sound and sight of a gospel centered life showing mercy for the right reason and the right result, ok?

That is living without partiality. Let’s pray.

Lord, make us gospel centered people who live in a way that doesn’t betray our theology. This is what partiality does. We say we have been set free to serve people. And yet often we receive the face in such a way as to make a decision on who we are serving based on only what we see.  And we choose wrongly, we choose unwisely when we only decide based on our external opinions.  All around us, heavenly Father, are people, yes, different, not just racially, but in lots of other ways. Lord, I pray you will protect us and guard us from thinking that that is what we should use to make our decisions. Instead give us a heart like yours.  Instill your values in us so that we see ourselves as able and willing and competent to serve people in your name without any partiality to where they are economically, where they live geographically and a host of other things we might throw on there as filters.  Lord, this is how you loved us. When we were still sinners, John affirms that you loved the world and gave yourself for it.  John later affirmed that you died for the sins of the whole world.  So, heavenly Father, I thank you that as we remember you now in communion, we are not remembering a partial God.  We are not remembering a Christ who died with favoritism in his mind.  We are remembering the sacrifice of Jesus by which now you are completely and eternally satisfied with us. You have freed us by the one who has fulfilled every part of the law. And so that very law that should have condemned us, it now actually through Christ we are free to serve under it, to love you and love others. God, give us a heart to do that based on your values, not man’s externals.

Stand with me, would you, First Family?

As you go to the tables this morning there on your left or right, behind you in front of you, will you do this? Will you take the elements?  And would you thank the Lord that he was not partial with you, but showed you mercy based on his justice with Christ.  That you benefited from Jesus’ righteousness even while you were in the middle of all of your sin, mercy won over judgment. Would you in light of that say: Lord, help me to speak and act in light of that law, the one that is actually now freed me to serve others?