Thursday, December 1, 2011

James 2:2-4, For if there should come into your assembly a man

For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit at my footstool,” NKJV
It's so easy to judge by outward appearance, and more so to have our attention swayed by preference.

Who wouldn't prefer the rich man's company to the poor? The rich man is well dressed and no doubt well spoken, he keeps himself clean and well groomed. He has nice things and his wealth when first seen is a sign of character and wisdom, at least in business, and can only accentuate his no doubt great levels of charisma. Knowing such a man could potentially be a door to improving one's own lot in life, it could bring business from the man himself or by his recommendation of you to friends. If nothing else his mannerisms are good and his bright personality is fun to be around.

The poor man on the other hand is dirty and no doubt smells. His poverty when first seen is a sign of foolishness and laziness, or at least simpleness to have received such a lot in life, and regardless of if he isn't like many of the beggars just waiting for the opportunity to take of your good graces, even if he is a good and kind man that simply fell on hard times, the mud on his face distorts this. Being around him could harm your own reputation and business, and though you might be kind enough to look on him well others might not be so willing and make unfair judgments of you as a result. If nothing else his mannerisms are somewhat annoying and his cheerfulness seems fake and his voice too loud.

The truth is, all of our initial reactions could be true. The rich man could be good and kind, willing to give to the poor and mindful of others, wise and blessed by God in many little ways for his good stewardship. Not perfect of course, but definitely one who would make an excellent and good friend and counselor. Perhaps you would even need to be careful of not falling into a position of taking advantage and betraying his trust, though thanks to his wisdom and discernment the rich man might also be careful to not put others in such a position of temptation anyway.

The poor man might be rather rotten, thinking you a good opportunity to gain a little money or the church a good place to have the blessings of others poured on and to be used later, not wisely, but for alcohol and worthless trinkets he thought might be enjoyed. The worst sort of friend one could have unmindful of the needs of others and perfectly willing to sow strife or lie to your face if it might bring him some benefit. It might be that you truly wish to help him, but throwing money at fools or entering into business with them is not the wisdom God grants us nor the kindness he calls of us.

However, when the rich man and the poor man first walk through the doors, how can you know? The rich man may be well dressed, but his generosity could be a facade and he could have cheated that very same poor man, once such a great giver to the poor, out of all he owned; and the poor man may have forgiven him and moved on, choosing not to be consumed by bitterness and hurt but rather to continue seeking after the God he loves.

The fact is we can't know, and whether rich or poor we must use the same discernment God has granted us to judge them both and not fall too soon into a snare with either.

What if it is not a rich man and a poor man but two rich men or two poor men? What if they are both wicked? Or neither?

And how does their comparison help you in determining your relationship with either? What if two people are foolish? Should the fact that one may be more foolish than the other change that neither should be gone to for advice? If both are liars, but one twists words more often and with more skill than the other, can either be trusted?

And if your friends are kind and give wholeheartedly, should you show favor to the ones that are able to give more thanks to their own abundance? Should your favor change with the changing of their lot in life?

With ten books to choose from and only five minutes to choose before leaving the airport bookstore to catch a flight, the fact is some narrowing down will need to be done by covers. It isn't fair, there may be a genuinely good and wonderful book that could have become your all time favorite if only there was time to look at more closely which you will skip over first thing because its cover is less than appealing. At the same time, there is no point in opening oneself to temptation by even picking up the obviously racy novel, the cover of which you don't even feel comfortable looking at, because of some slim possibility that it is a well written piece of literature but with misleading imagery the publisher felt would improve sales.

Regardless of appearances we must obviously still show everyone kindness and the love of Christ whether their covers are exciting or bland or frightening or a little less-than-decent, whether we have the time to get to know them or only a few minutes while in the line at Starbucks; and we would not reject them from our lives unless they might actually draw us away from Christ as is sometimes the sad truth we must face, praying for them but keeping what distance is needed, lest we fall into temptation. [Mathew 26:41; Galatians 6:1]

I pray
to God
that He brings
my heart
to want
what He wants
for the reasons
He wants it.

1 comment:

  1. Safety is also an issue too. For instance those who might be on drugs ,or those homeless that have is best to pray from a distance..