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God (unlike humans) honors the poor

September 13, 2022

Daily Scripture

James 2:5-7

5 My dear brothers and sisters, listen! Hasn’t God chosen those who are poor by worldly standards to be rich in terms of faith? Hasn’t God chosen the poor as heirs of the kingdom he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Don’t the wealthy make life difficult for you? Aren’t they the ones who drag you into court? 7 Aren’t they the ones who insult the good name spoken over you at your baptism?

Daily Reflection & Prayer

After writing “no favoritism,” how could James say God “has chosen the poor” as kingdom heirs? That was a hyperbolic way of saying God’s kingdom reverses this world’s values. (Jesus did the same—cf. Mark 10:25-27). “Roman courts favored the rich; in the second century, this preference was even written into laws, as it also was in many other legal collections…from the ancient Near East. Judges were of higher social rank and did not ordinarily trust persons of lower class.” *

  • We may see “Pharisees” and “Sadducees” as identical Hebrew religious leaders. True, both hated Jesus and his disciples. But Sadducees were rich nobles, more intent on not rocking the boat than theology. “Sadducean aristocrats were among the main enemies of Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem (Acts 4:1; 23:6–10), and not many years later [c. 62 C.E.] one such aristocrat had James executed.” ** How can that context help you see why James warned about “the wealthy”?
  • James’ main concern was not to pick out better and worse human leaders. Scholar N. T. Wright said “the rich” were nervous about Jesus’ followers, making a fuss about an executed man and claiming a new world had been born. He pictured them thinking, “Don’t they know who’s in charge around here? And James is ready with his answer: Yes, it’s King Jesus who’s in charge.” *** Whether religiously, politically or in any other way, is your ultimate loyalty to King Jesus?

King Jesus, James, and those he wrote to, knew that following you meant a lot more than just hanging out with some nice people when convenient. Keep reorienting my values to match yours. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Lydia Kim

Lydia Kim

Lydia Kim serves as one of the pastors of Connection and Care at Resurrection Leawood. An avid believer that growing in faith pairs well with fellowship and food, she is always ready for recommendations on local restaurants and coffee shops.

Growing up as a 2nd generation Korean American, the word “honor” brings conflicting feelings. Culturally, honor plays a significant role in Korean culture. Those older, more educated, wealthier, in higher positions of power, and male are given more respect. Growing up in the Korean American church, I often saw people repeating the same customs that had oppressed them in Korea. I was expected to treat certain individuals better because I was younger, less educated, less powerful, and female. So, for me, honor was often an unfair, superficial, and forced custom.

In James, I find a lot of freedom from these types of cultural norms. James reminds us that God turns our worldly values upside down and says we are to honor the poor. God values those on the margins and sees those who are unseen. We are invited to join God in this new way of seeing and being, to love like God, and to treat others with respect (to honor them). After all, we are ALL created in the image of God.

As we are called to continue to reorient ourselves to God’s ways instead of the culture around us, what cultural norms has God called us to turn upside down? What would it be like to acknowledge, respect, and honor someone we usually do not? What could we do differently? I pray that God gives us opportunities to see people differently and honor them like Christ this week.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Comment on James 2:4 in NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook . Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
** Comment on James 2:7 in NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook . Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
*** Wright, N. T., Early Christian Letters for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 15). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.