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BSF Lesson 5 – James 2:1-13

Weekly Devotionals

BSF Lesson 5 – James 2:1-13

A little more than one hundred years ago a young Hindu man from India arrived in South Africa to practice law. As he settled into his new home he began to hear good things about the Christian faith. Before long, he was reading through the Bible and seriously considering becoming a Christian. One Sunday morning he decided to attend a service at a large church nearby. But as he walked up the steps towards the auditorium, a white South African elder of the church barred his way at the door.

“Where do you think you’re going, kaffir (a derogatory racial slur)?” the elder asked in a belligerent tone of voice. The young Indian replied, “I’d like to attend worship here.” The church elder snarled at him, “There’s no room for kaffirs in this church. Get out of here or I’ll have my assistants throw you down the steps.”

From that moment, the young man decided that while he was willing to adopt what good he found in Christianity, he would never again consider becoming a Christian. What makes this shameful act of discrimination even more tragic is to whom it was committed: the young Indian man was none other than Mahatma Gandhi who would in later years become one of the most influential leaders in modern history. Yet because of his experience on that Sunday in South Africa, Gandhi would lead a world-changing revolution completely disconnected from Christianity. This man who years earlier had shown interest in the message of Jesus Christ could have utilized his unprecedented social influence to become one of the greatest evangelists of all time had he only seen the love of Christ reflected in the words and actions of Christians.

Opening Questions

  1. (Read – Why does this matter?)
  2. What lead people to discriminate against others based on race, economic class, outward appearance, cultural differences, etc.?

Observational Questions

  1. What key words do you notice in this passage? Themes?
  2. List all the reasons James gives for why we should not show partiality to the rich over the poor.

Interpretation Questions

  1. What does God think about wealth and poverty? How does He feel about rich people and poor people according to this passage? What does Jesus teach in Luke 6:26?
  2. Now for the elephant in the room: Is it inherently sinful for us to be wealthy? Prove your answer from Scripture.
  3. Define favoritism in the passage and in today’s context.  Why is favoritism considered a sin?
  4. Beyond the issue of rich and poor, what other kinds of sinful distinctions are we tempted to make in our church or community? Why do we tend to favor certain people over others?
  5. Why does James include vv8-13, a passage about the law, in this discussion of favoritism?  How do these verses advance his point?  See Matthew 5:21-26,48 and Galatians 5:14.

Application Question

  1. In your personal life, who have you been tempted to dismiss or look down upon (could be a specific person or a group)? Even at church, do you tend to favor certain groups over others? What are the reasons behind this partiality (past experiences, personal motives, upbringing, comfort level, etc.)?

Personal Reflection Question (Homework)

  1. What specific thing will you do this week to demonstrate mercy to someone you would normally avoid, exclude, or dismiss?