Discrimination is one of the great social tensions of our
times. All sorts of people
band together, in order to
exclude others from enjoying their special privileges.
Sometimes the discrimination is based on race or color.
Other instances reflect a favoritism arising from
differences in religion, sex, age, wealth, or culture. Jim
Crow laws, ghettos, and policies of certain clubs or
neighborhood associations usually involve some kind of
prejudice against persons who appear to be "different"
from the rest. Even people's personal habits that seem
offensive to others can trigger responses of
discrimination and deny equality of opportunity or
fairness of treatment.
Such unkind conduct may not be too
surprising in a world where selfishness and the protection
of one's own interests are the guiding principles.
However, a higher standard is expected from those who
profess the Christian faith. James has been asserting
that proper religious faith has an outward demonstration.
The Christian creed must be followed by Christian
conduct. Furthermore, Christian conduct is not
restricted to a few technical religious acts (for
instance, baptism, communion, church attendance) but also
the display of godliness and love in every aspect of
life, as guided by the Word of God.
century Palestine, as in most of the empire, the rich were
oppressing the poor. But the temptation to make rich
converts or inquirers feel welcome at the expense of the
poor was immoral. The language of impartiality was
normally applied especially to legal settings, but because
“synagogues served both as houses of prayer and as
community courts, this predominantly legal image naturally
applies to any gatherings there.
stressed that those who respected God should not show
“favoritism” toward people. Moralists and satirists
mocked the special respect given to the wealthy, which
usually amounted to a self-demeaning way to seek
funds. In Rome the senatorial class wore gold rings; some
members of this class sought popular support for
favors shown to various groups. But rings were hardly
limited to them; in the eastern Mediterranean gold
rings also marked great wealth and status. Clothing
likewise distinguished the wealthy; who could be
flamboyant, from others since peasants commonly had only
one cloak, which would thus often be dirty.
Jewish legal texts condemn judges who make one litigant
stand while another is permitted to sit; these
hearings normally took place in synagogues (2:2). To avoid
partiality on the basis of clothing, some
second-century rabbis required both litigants to dress in
the same kind of clothes.
Next Section - Dealing with the Rich