The Problem with Partiality

            There’s an old say, “It’s easy to spot someone else!” There’s truth in that statement. We have a razor sharp eye to spot the slightest hint of sinfulness in everyone else, but we often find ourselves struggling to find even the smallest hint of sinfulness to confess. Sure, we acknowledge the “big sins,” but one of James’ points in this wee’s text is that sin is sin, and if we are guilty of even one sin, we are guilty of sin.

As we read the pages of Scripture, we see that with the exception of the Lord Jesus Christ, who lived a sinless life, the Bible is filled with great men and women who were sinners. Yet, even in the Bible we see great men and women who were blinded to particular sin in their life. Often, these are referred to as prevailing or besetting sins. For Abraham, it was lying. For Moses, it was his temper, For Solomon, it was women.

The trouble with besetting sins is that it is something we are prone to, yet it fall between the cracks in our conscious. It is often an habitual sin we have difficulty identifying. You can usually spot when you are covering for your besetting sin because it is usually something you willingly confess that is sin, usually using the word “struggle” in doing so, yet fall to the same sin over and over. Again, this is something we all must deal with in one form or another.

Take a person who struggles with lying, for example. When she is caught, she is quick to confess, but it doesn’t change her behavior. Friends and family usually observe, “I don’t know what’s wrong with Suzie! She lies when the truth makes more sense!” That is a besetting sin. Consider the person like Moses who struggles with his temper: he acknowledges it’s a problem, and it’s under control most of the time, but when it rears its ugly head, there can be life-long damage done in a two minute outburst. That is a besetting sin.

We are all prone to besetting sin. In fact, the Apostle Paul warns us to be cautious when we self evaluate ourselves and find no hint of sin lest we fall (1 Cor. 10:12).

I believe partiality (or prejudice) is a sin that can be a besetting sin that is both habitual and falls easily into our blind spot. Why? Because we often feel justified in our prejudice. James wisely uses the economic difference between people to describe the sin of partiality in everyday-terms. This is something we can all relate to when it comes to partiality. Who among us isn’t tempted to be extra nice and be on our best behavior when someone of both wealth and importance is visiting?

If there is an over-arching lesson from this passage of Scripture, it is this: we are all created equal in God’s eyes, and we need to be careful to not judge based on the exteriors, but to see people as God sees us, through eyes of both love and mercy. James ends with a beautiful thought: “mercy triumphs over judgment.”

Ask the Holy Spirit to graciously and mercifully show you your besetting sins this week, including areas where you are prejudiced in your view of others. May we seek to live our lives by the Royal Law and the Law of Liberty, loving God and loving others without prejudice.–Chris Eller

This Week’s Core Virtue

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.

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