Remember Who You're Talking To

“Listen, my beloved brethren…..” James 2:5

James is writing to believers that have been scattered to different areas by the persecution of the church. I love the book of James. It has been called the book of Proverbs in the New Testament, filled with practical instruction and correction. Since I need ample and regular doses of both, I read a chapter of Proverbs daily and James a couple times a year.

Verse five of chapter two comes on the heels of James exposing something that happens often in church: preferential treatment of people considered more desirable than others. While James is talking about the rich, well dressed people, there are several groups we may be tempted to give preference to in our churches. Maybe they are big donors, very generous with their financial resources. Maybe they are the ones filled with good words for us, compliments and encouragements that can border on insincere flattery. Maybe they are just the ones who don’t cause any trouble, don’t need much from us and are easy deal with. Whoever they are and whatever they do, James tells the church that no one deserves any preferential treatment.

And oh, how I love the way he does it. “Listen, my beloved brethren…” He begins his correction and instruction reminding them of how he feels about them and who they are. First, he calls them beloved to let them know that they are esteemed, valued, and dear to his heart. How easy it would be to speak with the weight of his authority behind his words. He held a position in the church that caused his words to be taken seriously, in fact, to reject his authority may have compromised a church’s standing as disciples of Jesus. If someone had a right to boss a church around it would have been James. Yet, just as he opened his letter in humility, identifying himself as a bond slave, he again exhibits that attitude that rightly represents Jesus. The motivation behind the correction? Love. Love for God, love for these people. Is that our first motive when we have to correct someone? Let our love not be for an institution or a rule or a policy, but manifesting God’s love to His people for their well being.

Second, he calls them brethren. He is one of them, just another member of the household of faith who is under the same Headship they are. We’re in this together, he tells them. This correction, this instruction, this warning is an across-the-board communication for every believer in every church. James makes sure that they know he is speaking to them as one who is of them, exhibiting the lack of partiality he is writing about.

What a wonderful example of humility in action. For us, whether it’s your kids, your co-workers, those serving with or under you in ministry, this serves as practical model for us to follow. If you’re like me, someone who can look at things as tasks to accomplish or rules to follow, considering James' motive is a great heart check to perform before you open your mouth, even if you’re right. Maybe especially if you’re right. After all, it’s about rightly representing the heart of the Father. Deuteronomy 10:17 reveals Him as “…the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe.”

May we seek to be and do the same.

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