07 The Problem of Partiality (James 2:1-13)

This is part of a Bible Study series on the Epistle of James. You can find more information on the complete series by going to the Series Overview.

This Week: James 2:1-13
Date: February 7, 2016
Series: Shoe Leather Theology: Study of James

This Week’s Resources:

Overview of this Lesson

This week we look at the sin of partiality. Perhaps a more contemporary word for partiality is prejudice. This is one of those sins that is easy to spot in others and almost impossible to spot in ourselves. For most of us, our prejudice is justified in some way because, in our mind, our motives are pure and that makes our prejudice right and proper. James says, “no, that’s not how it should be for a believer. We are all equal in his eyes, and it is sinful if we make distinctions of other people based on exterior appearance or circumstances.” (That’s my translation.)

As we launch into this week’s study, we will look at some of the principles surrounding James’ teaching on partiality. James focuses most of his attention on economic favoritism, which is certainly something we all know and see, even in the church today.

As we study James 2:1-13, may the Holy Spirit use the words of His servant James to check our hidden motives and agendas in how we relate to others within the body of Christ and within our community.

Memory Verse for This Week

James 2:8–9 (ESV) ––8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

Core Practice: Possessions

Possessions (Luke 16:11–12): I seek to maintain an eternal perspective on money and possessions, realizing God has give me all that I have, and that he expects me to manage it wisely for His glory.


  • Looking back at your notes from this week’s sermon, was there anything that particularly caught your attention, challenged or confused you?
  • How much money would it take to make you consider yourself rich?
  • In today’s culture, what reasons might a person think he or she is more important than another person?

This Week’s Take Home Truth

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.

Read the Text (James 2:1-13)

The Sin of Partiality. The problem of the poor and the rich, already emphasized in 1:9–11, 27, now comes to center stage with this warning about discriminating against the poor in favor of the wealthy in the Christian assembly. Read James 2:1-13.

The Sin of Partiality

James 2:1–13 (ESV)

1 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for 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 murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Digging Deeper

In this section, feel free to develop your own questions to help guide your group’s discussion. Below are some suggestions.

  • How would you describe partiality in today’s language?
  • From a church perspective, what is the inherent danger of partiality?
  • As individuals, what does the existence of partiality point towards?
  • What is the difference between discernment and prejudice or partiality?
  • From verses 5-11, what reasons does James give why we must avoid the sin of partiality?
  • In what ways do you think James’ teaching on the sin of partiality was counter-culture for the First Century Christian?

Concluding Thoughts

These questions are given to prompt both reflection and learning on a personal level, and should likely be completed individually and apart from your regular group time.

  • Ask God to reveal where you may be guilty of favoritism and partiality. Do you target certain groups for evangelism and exclude others? Do your church programs focus on a particular demographic that will bring in more converts and more money, ignoring the smaller, poorer populations in your neighborhood? We need to be strategic in ministry, but we can’t be prejudiced.
  • Ask for discernment to make accurate distinctions about how to love, whom to trust, and when to confront. James isn’t saying we must treat every soul on earth exactly the same, but we can’t treat people unfairly simply based on our superficial prejudices. If we approach each person we meet as opportunities to demonstrate love, we’ll make good progress at putting away prejudice from our midst.

Becoming A House of Prayer

Set aside a portion of your Lighthouse for prayer.

Prayer Prompts:

  • Pray for the youth of First Family. Pray that God will put a hedge of protection around these boys and girls, young men and women. Ask God to give them wisdom and discernment as the grow physically, spiritually, and intellectually. Pray for their parents who are shepherding them through these foundational years, and ask God to call pastors, teachers, missionaries, counselors, and evangelists from among them to serve His church in the next generation.
  • Pray for the families in our church who are opening their homes to foster children and orphans. Pray for God’s financial provision and for His grace and mercy as these children adjust to their new home.
  • Pray for the protection of every unborn baby in Central Iowa. Pray that God will allow the young mothers considering abortion to feel the life of this unborn child and to give her a mother’s love and desire to protect her child.
  • Pray that God would frustrate and hinder the work of abortionists in Iowa, that they would be discouraged in their work and ultimately turn from their routine of murder to the gospel of Jesus Christ for grace, mercy and forgiveness.
  • Pray that in this election year God would raise up strong voices for righteousness among the political leaders of our country. Pray that He would prosper and bless those who call upon His name and give them favor among the people. Pray for wisdom and compassion for all of the leaders of our country.
  • Pray and ask God to ignite a hunger within First Family for His Word. May we be a people of the Word and ready and able to give an answer to anyone who may ask. May He open the floodgates of worship and praise within our church family as His Spirit leads us into a closer walk with our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ!