Introduction: This lesson gives me mixed feelings. For almost 35
years I was a member of the Adventist Church in Manassas, Virginia.
When I joined, the church leaders immediately asked me to be an
elder. I challenged them: “Why should I be an elder? Because I’m a
lawyer?” On the other hand, I’ve been involved in many evangelistic
outreaches in Manassas. No effort was ever made to bring in educated
“professional class” members. We never converted anyone with a Ph.D
or professional doctorate. Church always seemed this bizarre mix. We
would never target professionals for conversion, but if we had a
professional in the church, they were almost always made a leader.
What does the Bible say, if anything, about these kinds of issues?
Let’s plunge into our study and find out!

  1. James and the Rich

    1. Read James 2:1-4. Would this happen in your church? (I
      suspect it would happen in most churches.)

      1. James says this reflects “evil thoughts,” and later
        he will call this a sin. Do you agree?

      2. When we use the term “discrimination” in the United
        States, we mean treating people differently for
        irrelevant reasons. For example, if someone grew a
        lump on the arm, we would not consider it
        discrimination for that person to seek the opinion of
        a medical doctor and not a carpenter. Is there any
        relevant reason to make special efforts to try to
        bring the rich man into your church? (I can think of
        at least a couple. First, it helps the church
        financially. Second, at least in the United States,
        there is a link between intelligence, education and
        income. Most organizations want educated, intelligent
        people in leadership positions to make the
        organization run better.)

    2. Read James 2:5. How is the church not like “most
      organizations?” (James says that God discriminates against
      the rich by giving faith to the poor.)

      1. Which would you prefer in church leadership, those
        who are educated and intelligent, or those who are
        full of faith? (Those who are full of faith would be
        able to rely on the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.)

      2. Do you really believe what James says – that God
        chose the poor over the rich?

      3. If you say, “yes,” how do you explain that
        Deuteronomy 28 is in the Bible? We looked at it last
        week because it says that those who follow God are
        physically and financially blessed. How do you
        explain Job, a fellow we also considered last week?
        He was faithful, but also smart and fabulously rich.

    3. Read James 2:6-7. Is this true in your country?

      1. James did not live in a democracy. Is his observation
        true in a democracy? (In the United States, CNN
        reported that in 2010 those in the top 10% of income
        paid 70.6 of the income tax total, everyone else paid
        29.4% of income taxes. To compare, those in the top
        10% of income took home 45% of income. I use CNN as
        a source because I doubt that anyone will think that
        it is biased in favor of the rich.)

    4. Read James 2:8. I’ll let everyone who reads this determine
      whether the situation James described in his time is true
      for the current time in their own country. What does James
      say is the timeless rule regardless of where we live? (We
      are to love our neighbor as our self.)

      1. What does this mean as a practical matter? (It means
        that if we have been discriminating against the poor,
        we should stop it. If we have been discriminating
        against the rich, we should stop it.)

    5. Read James 2:9-11. Is showing favoritism a sin? (Yes.)

      1. To what sin does James compare favoritism? (Murder
        and adultery.)

        1. Is James getting carried away? Is he
          exaggerating to make a point? (This is why
          grace is so important! We may think that our
          sins are minor, but James points out that
          violating any part of the law is a violation of
          the entire law.)

    6. Read James 2:12-13. What do these verses suggest is James’
      main point? (That we need to show mercy to people. If we
      treat people differently (and worse), because of their
      relative wealth, then we fail God because we are not
      showing mercy.)

      1. Why is mercy so important? (It is God’s greatest gift
        to us – the mercy He showed us by saving us by grace

  2. Jesus and the Rich

    1. Read Luke 5:1-3. Why did Jesus get into the boat? (It
      allowed Him to be seen and heard better when He was

      1. A boat was a valuable asset. Is Jesus blessed to have
        a follower who has a valuable asset?

    2. Read Luke 5:4-5. Do you think Jesus was teaching the
      people about fishing? Who was the expert on this topic?
      (Simon Peter. He was the fisherman whose business owned
      the boat.)

      1. What do you think Simon Peter thought about Jesus’
        suggestion that they put down nets? (He followed
        Jesus’ suggestion to be polite. He knew it was a
        waste of time.)

    3. Read Luke 5:6-8. Is Peter sinful because his business had
      valuable assets? Is he sinful because he failed to
      recognize the opportunity of fishing during the day? Why
      does he ask Jesus to leave because of his sins? (Peter
      lacked faith in Jesus. He realized it and confessed his
      sin. Peter knew this was a miracle, not a missed fishing

    4. Read Luke 5:9-11. Jesus calls Simon Peter, a partner in a
      fishing operation, to be His disciple. Why would Jesus
      choose a man whose education was in fishing (and perhaps
      business) instead of theology? Peter thought he knew more
      than Jesus and he did not have faith in Jesus. Why choose
      him (and apparently his business partners as well)?

    5. Read Mark 6:3, John 1:45-46, Luke 9:58 and Isaiah 11:10-12. These texts show that Jesus was homeless, He was not
      educated in a traditional sense, He grew up in a lousy
      town and there was some question about the morality of his
      conception (“Mary’s son”). The Isaiah prophecy predicts
      that Jesus will be a warrior King who will rally the Jews
      and defeat their enemies. If you were empire-building,
      would you choose Peter? Would you choose the conditions of
      Jesus’ life for a warrior king?

      1. If you were reforming a religious movement, would you
        choose Peter? Would you choose for the leader being
        poor, homeless, uneducated and of questionable

      2. The Trinity had plenty of time to consider all of
        this, why did They make the decisions They did? (Read
        Hebrews 4:15-16. When we say “We want to be like
        Jesus,” we should not aim to be uneducated, homeless
        or being scorned by others. One reason Jesus came
        with all of these disadvantages is because of grace –
        He wants us to see that He lived through the kind of
        problems humans face.)

    6. Read Judges 7:2-3. Are you familiar with this principle?
      (God works through weakness so that it is clear that God
      is the source of the solution.)

      1. Would this principle explain in part why Jesus chose
        the disciples He did and lived the life He led?

  3. The Advantage of Being Poor

    1. Few think being poor is an advantage. Few hope to be poor.
      Yet we have just seen that Jesus chose to be poor and
      chose unlikely disciples to show us that the Kingdom of
      heaven is for all, regardless of wealth. The Bible
      suggests another advantage of being poor, and we turn to
      it next.

    2. Read Proverbs 10:15. Perhaps James missed this text. What
      does it say about wealth?

      1. In contrast, read Psalms 144:1-2. What does this say
        about our fortress in life?

    3. Read Luke 18:18-20. Is Jesus’ answer the one you would
      give? Is it the answer Paul would give?

    4. Read Luke 18:21-24. No one who has ever discussed this
      story with me believes this instruction applies to them.
      Why not?

      1. If it does not apply to you, why did it apply to this
        rich ruler?

    5. Read Romans 10:9-11. Will keeping the commandments or
      giving away all of our wealth earn our salvation? (No!
      Jesus was talking to the ruler about trust. As Romans
      10:11 says, if we trust in Jesus we will never be put to
      shame. The lesson Jesus taught was that we must trust Him
      instead of our wealth. That is why wealth is a
      disadvantage when it comes to grace. We trust our wealth.)

    6. Friend, will you look more realistically at wealth and
      your fellow church members? Will you love all as you love
      yourself, and will you make it your goal to depend only on

  4. Next week: Jesus and the Social Outcasts.