by Stan Mitchell
“Suppose,” James begins a provocative discussion, “that a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in” (James 2:2).
Well, suppose that he does. I still remember a white family in Africa who walked out of worship due to the presence of a black family. Talk about standing on principle! That church faced a dilemma.
Or did it?
Apparently there were brethren in James’ day who judged people on the basis of their appearance. “Why doesn’t he get a job,” they might have thought, or, “If she really cared, she would wear a clean dress.” These days we might look down on someone who has only a pair of jeans and T-shirt to wear, or who must walk to church.
Some might worry about the church’s image. What happens if we have too many of the shabby and unkempt in our worship service? How will we attract the bank manager and the mayor to our church if they see these people?
You may not attract them. But if you do, they will be there for the right reasons. James diagnoses his readers as being “judges with evil thoughts” (2:4).
It is humiliating to be poor. There are those letters that no longer begin with “Dear Sir,” but merely, “Sir.” There is the phone that goes dead on Monday morning because the bill was not paid.
The one place where dignity should be intact is among God’s people. After all, the God we worship “does not consider appearance,” but “looks at a man’s heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
The irony is that, rich or poor, not one of us have the right to enter his presence. Yet he has seated us in places of honor and loves us all. In a sense, none of us is dressed in Armani suits; we only have filthy rags to wear. The wonder is, dressed as we are, that the Prince of all the earth invites us to sit with Him!
by Stan Mitchell