These small group studies of James contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

James 2:1-13 Inductive Bible Study – Do Not Show Favoritism

James 2:1-13 Video Bible Study

James 2:1-13 Podcast Bible Study

James 2:1-13 Bible Study

Outline

I. Show no partiality (1-4)
II. Do not honor the rich above the poor (5-7)
III. Fulfill the law by loving others (8-13)

I. Show no partiality (1-4)

Discussion Questions

• What does it mean to show favoritism?
• Is favoritism common in your society?
• Why do people normally show favoritism?
• What are some of the motivations behind favoritism?
• Is favoritism common in the church?
• In what ways might believers show favoritism today in the church?
• How about outside of the church?

Cross-References

1 Corinthians 12:12-14 – Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

1 Samuel 16:7 – But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

John 7:24 – Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Show no partiality – Favoritism is prevalent in the world. The way James describes this issue means to elevate or exalt a person based only on something external, such as appearance (skin color or race), wealth, gender, social status, or position. Nations have shown favoritism by not allowing certain minorities to vote or oppressing segments of the population in other ways.

The slave trade was a disgusting demeaning of Africans, whereby they were treated worse than animals. Even after African Americans won the right to vote according to the law, actually voting was very difficult for them in many areas of the US. Women also couldn’t vote for an extended portion of American history. Some nations still only allow the rich to vote.

In South Africa, Apartheid kept a division between the white ruling class and the black class for decades. Some countries’ majority have committed genocide against tens of thousands only because of a difference in race. In Rwanda in 1994, 800,000 minority people were brutally murdered in three months because of partiality. And Hitler massacred around seven million Jews under Nazi Germany, in addition to countless mentally disabled, elderly, and those who were not of his supposed Master Aryan race.

Favoritism is not limited to one race or group of people. It is a sin that any person, race, and country can struggle with. Moreover, it is ugly wherever it rears its head.

On a personal level, favoritism is just as heinous. It causes neighbors to turn against neighbors and the rich to abuse the poor. Favoritism can stir up hatred and bitterness.

Partiality also frequently pops up in religion. During the time of Jesus, the Jews were extremely prejudiced. They looked down on women, Samaritans, tax collectors, the uneducated, and all outsiders; basically everyone but educated Jewish males.

In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church launched over ten crusades, most for the sole purpose of killing the heathen. And Muslims also fought many wars against the infidel to expand their territory.

Partiality is not only a thing from the ancient past. Today I have heard stories of people going to church and those in the congregation looking down on them and making them feel so uncomfortable (maybe because of their past sins, clothing, or other reasons) that they never returned.

In this passage, we are commanded to show no partiality. We are to love all people with the love of Christ regardless of skin color, sinful lifestyle, or economic position.

Galatians 3:28 Bible Verse

2. What is the cause of favoritism? – I think there are several root causes.

A. Pride – Sometimes pride in our own education, knowledge level, or maturity causes us to look down on others who haven’t achieved the same level we think we have.

B. External focused – Often we show favoritism because we are focused on man instead of God. We don’t want others to look at us and say, “Oh, look who he is hanging out with.” We are worried that spending time with a certain group or person will draw negative attention from others. Peter faced this issue when he stopped eating with the Gentiles in fear of the Jews (Galatians 2:11-13).

C. Desire for praise – We do something kind for some people because we want them to notice and return the favor, which is what James describes in this passage. If a person is rich or has a high position, they can do a lot for us, whereas if they are poor, they can’t. If they are a pastor or esteemed church member, they will recognize our service and think highly of us. Basically, we show favoritism by being nice to particular people to win brownie points. Although these good deeds to curry favor may look good on the outside, God sees our hearts. We should please God rather than man.

Application: The problem for us is when favoritism starts to creep into our own lives and attitudes. Think about how favoritism may start to influence your thinking and actions. Share one or two times you might have been tempted to show partiality. What was the root cause? Why were you tempted? How will you improve in this area?

4. James’ example of honoring the rich in church (2-4) – The believers James wrote to fell into the sin of favoritism by treating the rich differently than the poor. They gave the best seats in the church to the rich, while the poor were afterthoughts.

How might we fall into the trap of showing favoritism in church?

  •  Hanging out with the same group and ignoring others.
  •  Giving special recognition or plaques to those who make large donations.
  •  Currying favor with rich people who can give a larger tithe.
  •  Not paying attention to newcomers.
  •  Not being helpful to certain people whom we have a low opinion of.
  •  Being rude to a person because we think their motives are not pure.

Application: Train yourself out of favoritism. This week at church, instead of going straight to your regular group of friends to chat, find someone new whom you may not generally talk with. Reach out to them and be friendly. Invite them to lunch or your house.

5. Our ultimate example is Christ – Jesus was sent to die for the sins of the world, not just for one group of people. God created all people in His image. He values each one, poor or rich, healthy or sick, high or low IQ. Jesus gave His life for the people of the world. It is in this fundamental truth that the individual value of all people rests. Since Christ does not show partiality, we must not either.

If Christ, the Almighty Creator, was not too good to or above showing love and compassion to the lowest of groups, how about us? Obviously, we are not either.

Self-righteousness and pride make us think we are better than others or make us want to flatter rich people to get something in return. God is just, fair, and objective. This is a fundamental attribute of His, and we should strive to follow the perfect example of Christ. His ministry was primarily directed to the poor people and sinners of the earth, not Pharisees or important leaders. The poor are more receptive to the gospel, and we should emulate Christ’s compassion for them.

II. Do not honor the rich above the poor (5-7)

Discussion Questions

  •  Does God show favoritism?
  •  What does verse 5 teach us about God’s character?
  •  In what ways did Jesus give us an example of not showing favoritism? (Choice of lineage, birthplace, ministering to Samaria, Galilee, poor, sinful, and sick)
  •  How can we follow God’s example of impartiality in our daily lives?
  •  What is James’ point in verses 6-7?
  •  Since the rich can be cruel, should we show special attention to the poor people?
  •  Why or why not?

Cross-References

Isaiah 1:17 – Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

Matthew 9:10-13 – While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Do not favor the rich – James points out how illogical it is to strive so hard to please rich people while neglecting the poor. The poor were often the ones who were saved by God and belonged to God’s family, while the rich often mistreated believers and mocked their faith.

Many poor people are among the happiest in the world and have strong faith in God. Christ largely ministered to the poor people of the world. But it did not take long for Jesus’ focus on reaching the poor to be forgotten.

The saints’ partiality was motivated by a worldly way of thinking, but even with a worldly way of thinking, it was ridiculous for them to endeavor so hard to please this group who mistreated them. Why focus most of your energy on satisfying the rich person who will likely reject you and the word you teach?

Notice that James is not teaching a kind of reverse discrimination to discriminate against the rich.

Exodus 23:3 Bible Verse

God offers salvation to both the rich and the poor. But because of the pride of their heart, it tends to be less common for the rich to accept it. We must show love to all of our neighbors, poor or rich. James uses this as an example because most tend to try to please th