Equal in the Eyes of God
9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.
James takes time out in the middle of talking about trials, to dip his foot into the issue of how we value and treat one another and ourselves. What this says to me is that trials come from people, which means they can come from me. So, I need to not be a dispenser of trials.
The way we treat people is a very important issue in life, and it is central to the Book of James. Wisdom has at its root first the fear of God. That is what will bring us to the appropriate standard by which we measure all of our behavior. And then wisdom teaches us how to treat others!
James 3:13-18 is the crowning teaching on Godly vs worldly wisdom, especially as it leads to conflict, but our relationships with others begins here.
- Proper Evaluation of Ourselves and Others
- Low to high
There is a brother in low position.
What makes a person be of low position? How do we decide this?
What do people respect? Money, power possessions, success, funny, clever etc.
What is the person in low position to take pride in? (Moving up the ladder?) The fact that in God’s world they are not low! If you are in Christ, then God sees you as righteous.
You are an adopted child of God! If I go to a concert at school, I go to hear my kid, even if yours sings better. I am invested in the whole life of my child. You are God’s child. Isn’t everybody? No, all are not!
You are the building that houses the Holy Spirit,
you are the body of Christ,
and you are the Bride of Christ.
You will live with Christ in God’s house for all eternity.
Who gives the person not respected by a culture a higher position? So, if God gives you a high position, then it cannot be taken away by the disrespect of other people.
- High to low v.10
There is a brother in high position. The rich are told to take pride in their humiliation. They are temporary and riches are a mirage of life. The rich will fade away even as they go about their business. And how much of their wealth do they leave behind? All of it.
Are the people who you would consider low important to you? They had better be, because God says they are!
- Get away from all false standards
There are many different values and standards of value for people and experiences in life. There seems to be no end to what they are. If we were to travel from place to place in the world, we would find a great variety of ways that people make distinctions amongst themselves. Is there any way to unify ourselves?
There is a different standard for deciding how well we are doing in life. And that is the degree that we are reflecting the image of God.
Jesus is the image of the invisible God. And we are called to follow Jesus so that we might have the light of life!
So, what is the source of human value?
- Created in the Image of God
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
Ephesians 2:10 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
- Cain kills Abel
Genesis 4: But if you do not do what is right,
sin is crouching at your door;
it desires to have you,
but you must rule over it.”
Followed by Lamech and the spiral into excessive sin! Lamech is five generations following Cain:
23 Lamech said to his wives,
“Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words.
I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me.
24 If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.”
- Noah and his covenant
A new creation, a new focused command
Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. 2 The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. 3 Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.
4 “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. 5 And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.
6 “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.
7 As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.”
8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: 9 “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10 and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
The command is clear, stated in poetic form to be easily remembered!
You are not to shed innocent blood, because people are created in the image of God.
- Ham and his brothers’ actions
In the story of Ham and Noah we see an extension of the issue of how the image of God is to be respected in people.
20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.
24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,
“Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.”
26 He also said,
“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Shem!
May Canaan be the slave of Shem.
27 May God extend Japheth’s territory;
may Japheth live in the tents of Shem,
and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.”
What is the point of sharing and spreading the shame of others?
And here Jesus shows us a better way.
Jesus is the ultimate garment that covers shame.
And this is how Jesus teaches on the law:
Murder: Anger: Good for nothing: Fool! These all break the commandment!
So, how do we live toward others and ourselves?
III. Yourself and Others
- Treat others as you would like to be treated
12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Luke 6:31 Do to others as you would have them do to you
This is really a reflection of Leviticus 19:
- Love your neighbor as yourself
17 ‘You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may certainly rebuke your neighbor, but you are not to incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance, nor hold any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.
- You shall not hate
- You may certainly rebuke
- You shall not take vengeance
- Don’t be led into sin because of your neighbor’s sin
- You shall not hold a grudge
The standard for the definition of love is to love like Jesus loves you.
- Love as Christ loves you
A new commandment I give to you!
John 13: 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
How does Jesus love you?
1It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
James will come back to the issue of the way that we treat others again. But this is the foundational place where we all start. People, all people are created in the image of God. Give them the respect and honor that this deserves. They are valuable to God, are they valuable to you?