Introduction: Several times, in connection with a church
event, I recall conversations that shocked me. A couple of
times I recall talking to church members who I did not know
well, and they thanked me for talking to them. Why should they
thank me, I asked? Because they felt a class difference
between us. Once, a friend told me he was amazed I would be
his friend because of the differences in our jobs. Another
time, a medical doctor in church noted that we were both
wearing suits, and suggested that those who did not were of
lesser worth. I pointed out that we wore suits to work, and
that might be the primary reason for what we wore to church.
It was not a question of worth. There are other examples I
could recite. Each time someone suggested that my education or
my job made me more worth-while than someone else, I was
either surprised or offended. James talks about this in our
study today, but what he says (at least on the surface)
offends me too. Let’s dive into the Bible and have an honest
discussion of “class” issues!

  1. Favoritism

    1. Read James 2:1-4. What do you think, do all who come
      to church deserve a good place to sit? (Yes, of

      1. Can you think of any reason to discriminate, on
        the basis of wealth, between visitors who come
        to your church? (If I could convince a very rich
        person to become a member, it could be a great
        financial blessing to the church. A very poor
        person might become a financial liability for
        the church.)

      2. James calls this “discrimination” and “evil
        thoughts.” At what point is discrimination
        using common sense and at what point is it evil?
        (Treating poor people badly is evil. Recognizing
        the advantage that a person can bring to your
        church is common sense.)

      3. Let’s take this out of the money and class
        discussion for a moment. Would you work harder
        to convince a great singer or great Sabbath
        School teacher to join your church then someone
        who will just warm a pew? (This reflects the
        common sense aspect of this.)

    2. Read James 2:5. If discrimination based on wealth
      is evil, isn’t it discrimination for God to favor
      the poor over the rich?

      1. Notice that James is asking a question. I think
        he is being rhetorical, but let’s treat it as a
        real question. How would you answer it? (My
        answer is “no,” God has not chosen those who are
        poor to be rich in faith. Consider several of
        the heros of the Old Testament: Moses, Abraham,
        Job, King David, Daniel – not one of these was

      2. Read Hebrews 11:32-39. What does this suggest
        about success, wealth and faith? (All of these
        people had faith – even though their lives
        turned out very differently. The point here is
        that money and success on earth are not related
        to faith.)

      3. Scan Deuteronomy 28. What is the message here
        about obedience and wealth? (This is a chapter
        to which I often refer. It says obey God and
        prosper. Disobey God and your life will be a
        disaster. In particular, it says disobedience
        brings poverty.)

      4. That means we have three apparently different
        messages: James says God favors the poor with
        faith, Hebrews says faith has no relationship to
        success on earth, and Deuteronomy says that
        obedience (faith) brings wealth. How would you
        reconcile these three Bible messages?

    3. Read Proverbs 10:15 and Proverbs 4:6. What do these
      texts say about wealth and wisdom? (They protect the
      person who possesses them.)

      1. A popular book, the Bell Curve, connected higher
        intelligence with greater education, and greater
        education with higher income. I realize that
        wisdom and intelligence are not the same, but I
        believe these two Bible texts and this book tend
        to prove a point about the wealthy – they are
        protected by their money and their intelligence.
        How would you relate this idea to James 2:5?
        (Those who do not have money or high
        intelligence to protect them, are more likely to
        turn to God for protection. Those who can rely
        on money and intelligence to solve problems, are
        less likely to turn to God to solve problems.)

    4. Look again at James 2:5. If James is to be
      understood in a way consistent with Hebrews and
      Deuteronomy, would it be fair to say that “chosen”
      means the poor are more likely to turn to faith in
      God for problem-solving?

    5. Read James 2:6. Let’s go back to the original
      problem – making the poor sit on the floor while
      giving the rich a nice seat. If you were to engage
      in common sense discrimination based on income, what
      would you conclude about the poor? (They were more
      likely to be filled with faith – and thus people you
      want to have in your church.)

      1. Read Matthew 28:19-20 and Revelation 3:15-17. If
        you have accepted Matthew 28 as your mandate in
        life, what kind of seat should you give the rich
        in church? (Good seats, up close, because they
        need to be converted and rely more on faith.)

  2. Class Warfare

    1. Read James 2:6-7. If someone asked you James’ three
      questions, would you say that person showed
      favoritism towards the poor? Doesn’t this person
      sound biased against the rich?

      1. Notice that James’ questions are based on
        factual assertions – the rich exploit you. If
        this were not true, would James have a
        convincing argument? (James was most likely
        writing to people who were now poor, so he might
        be appealing to bias, but if what he said came
        only from bias, I doubt he would be believed.
        This must reflect the context of the time.)

      2. What about your context, do the rich exploit the
        poor or do the poor exploit the rich? (I live in
        a democracy. Because we have more poor people
        than rich people, the rich are outnumbered in
        votes. When God was in charge of Israel, He
        created a basic 10% tax (a tithe)on income,
        regardless of the amount of income. Leviticus
        27:30. Where I live, the rich pay more because
        they earn more, but they also pay a larger
        percentage of their income. At one point, the
        rich were taxed at a marginal rate of 90% of
        income. (That has since been repealed.) What
        does this suggest about exploitation in my

      3. Hopefully, fistfights have not broken out during
        this Bible discussion! Let’s get back to James’
        original concern about bias. Should our views on
        wealth cause us to treat people poorly when they
        come to church? If you think the rich are taking
        advantage of you or you think the poor are
        taking advantage of you, how should you treat
        those who you think are taking advantage? (We
        should not insult anyone by treating them

    2. Look again at James 2:7. Is this true in your
      culture, that the rich slander Jesus’ name? (If
      there is an inverse relationship between money and
      reliance on God, then this is likely true.)

      1. Where would we want to seat those who slander
        Jesus? (It they are serious in coming to church,
        we certainly want to give them good seats so
        they can hear the gospel message.)

        1. Do you think James would disagree with what
          I just suggested? (I hope not! James
          condemns insulting the poor. I agree. James
          is not saying anything about how we should
          seat those who most need to have their
          hearts converted.)

  3. Universal Lawbreakers

    1. Read James 2:8. Wait a minute! What does James say
      is the universal rule of law? (To love others as we
      love ourselves.)

      1. How would you apply this rule to our class
        warfare discussion? (No bias is permitted at
        all. No bias against the poor. No bias against
        the rich. No bias against those in the middle.
        We treat everyone just like we would like to be

    2. Read James 2:9-11. Is James telling us that showing
      favoritism to the rich is just like killing the poor
      and showing favoritism to the poor is just like
      killing the rich?

      1. Are you grateful for grace right now? (Read
        Romans 3:19-24. James is making a very important
        point, if you violate any part of the law you
        violate it all. The law sets before us the goal
        of putting bias behind us, and treating others
        with love. But, thank God, we are saved by faith
        in Jesus.)

    3. Read James 2:12-13. Are you going to be judged by
      the law? (Not according to the text we just read in
      Romans, if you rely on Jesus’ righteousness.)

      1. What, then, is James’ point? (Those who are not
        saved by grace will be judged by God’s law.
        Wouldn’t it make sense to live in accord with
        God’s law? God’s law is for our benefit,
        therefore it gives us freedom for those saved by

    4. Friend, this lesson, at bottom, is about showing
      favoritism. Is this a problem in your life? If you
      say “no,” I doubt your word. Why not be honest,
      right now, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you show
      equal love to those around you?

  4. Next week: Faith that Works.