2nd Sunday in Lent 17 March

2:1My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favouritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?

2For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, 3and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Have a seat here, please’, while to the one who is poor you say, ‘Stand there’, or, ‘Sit at my feet’, 4have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?

James is addressing here the problem of a community of faith which is making distinctions between people. There are those who are judged impressive and should be catered to and there are others who are deemed unworthy of attention and can be ignored.

There is one Greek word here that stands out for me. The word that catches my attention is prosōpolēmpsia. I like the NRSV translation “favoritism.”

“Favoritism” runs a lot of my life. I am yanked around by “I like this – I don’t like that.” My life is driven by “This is good; but that is bad.” I live my life seeking to maximize pleasure and comfort and minimize pain and suffering. I am always the “judge” assessing what I imagine will bring me comfort and what I believe will cause me pain.

I judge the “person with gold rings and in fine clothes” to be more worthy of attention because I believe they have the capacity to help me achieve my preferences. I do not expect much benefit from the “poor person in dirty clothes.”

When I allow my life to be driven by external distinctions, I make myself the victim of “ponēros thoughts”. Here I am less keen on the NRSV translation. The thoughts that make distinctions and judgments are not necessarily “evil” but they are certainly ponēros – “hard pressed,” “harassed,” “laboured,” “bringing toil.”

When I run my life by “I like” or “I don’t like” my mind is burdened by the intolerable pressure to constantly orchestrate the circumstances of my life to fit my particular predilections. This is slavery.

I am free when I am no longer driven by “favouritism.” When I pay less attention to my preferences I live more fully in that freedom for which Christ has set me free.