“We adorn our fingers with rings,” said Seneca, “and we distribute gems over every joint.”
Clement of Alexandria recommends that a Christian should wear only one ring, and that he should wear it on his little finger. The other is a poor man, dressed in poor clothes because he has no others to wear and unadorned by any jewels. The rich man is ushered to a special seat with all ceremony and respect; while the poor man is bidden to stand, or to squat on the floor, beside the footstool of the well-to-do.
The Church must be the one place where all distinctions are wiped out. There can be no distinctions of rank and prestige when men meet in the presence of the King of glory. There can be no distinctions of merit when men meet in the presence of the supreme holiness of God. In his presence all earthly distinctions are less than the dust and all earthly righteousness is as filthy rags. In the presence of God all men are one.
“God,” said Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, “must love the common people because he made so many of them.”
Christianity has always had a special message for the poor.
In Jesus’ first sermon in the synagogue at Nazareth his claim was: “He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18).
His answer to John’s puzzled inquiries as to whether or not he was God’s Chosen One culminated in the claim: “The poor have good news preached to them” (Matthew 11:5).
The first of the Beatitudes was “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
And Luke is even more definite: “Blessed are you poor; for yours is the Kingdom of God (Luke 6:20).
During the ministry of Jesus, when he was banished from the synagogues and took to the open road and the hillside and the seaside, it was the crowds of common men and women to whom his message came. In the days of the early church, it was to the crowds that the street preachers preached. In fact, the message of Christianity was that those who mattered to no one else mattered intensely to God. (Barclay)
The Scripture gives as a law, to love our neighbors as ourselves. This law is a royal law, it comes from the King of kings; and if Christians act unjustly, they are convicted by the law as transgressors. To think that our good deeds will atone for our bad deeds, plainly puts us upon looking for another atonement. According to the covenant of works, one breach of any one command brings a man under condemnation, from which no obedience, past, present, or future, can deliver him. This shows us the happiness of those that are in Christ. If we are to serve him we are to do so without slavish fear. God’s restraints are not a bondage, but our own corruptions are. (Matthew Henry)
By way of summation, Henry stated that the lesson of impartial love is to those who profess faith in Christ as the Lord of glory and instructions as to not respect persons on account of mere outward circumstances and appearances, in a manner not agreeing with their profession of being disciples of the lowly Jesus. The apostle James does not here encourage rudeness or disorder: civil respect must be paid; but never such as to influence the proceedings of Christians in disposing of the offices of the church of Christ, or permitting the censure of some and classification within the church of the living God, or in any matter of religion.
Church Supply Pastor and Christian columnist, Dr. Wayne M. Williams, presently resides in Athens with his wife of 39 years, Lita. For additional study notes, see the Facebook page International Sunday School Lessons.