Our pastor was preaching on James 2 yesterday at church. Her theme was favoritism. And as they say down here she was "agin" it. Because James is. She asked us to consider how we show favoritism daily, even at church. James paints the picture as if he had seen it happen before: a rich person comes in to church and the ushers stumble over each other to show him to a valued seat up front, followed by a poor person in dirty clothes (and smelling dirty) and no one in particular points her to a back seat in the corner away from every one else. How do we do that, the pastor asked. We had a hard time coming up with much. We could think of how it could possibly happen and how it does happen in other churches, but we try to be more aware of such things.
I was still thinking about our pastor's saying that James was the brother of Jesus while she was asking us to apply the favoritism text. The brother of Jesus, think about that for a moment. Talk about an eyewitness point of view. James grew up with Jesus. I wondered if it was slightly like Joseph (that coat of many colors Joseph) in the Old Testament growing up with his brothers. Was Jesus the favorite of the family? Did his parents show favoritism? Did James resent it? There was a time the gospels tell us when the family of Jesus rejected him. They did not believe he was who he said he was. Was that because Joseph and Mary treated him more special than they were? Favoritism causes a lot of problems in families. Rod Dreher wrote a book about his struggles with it in his family. He was well into middle age before he figured out how to deal with it in a healthy way. The book is, How Dante Can Save Your Life. James figured it out too. He became a follower of Jesus, a leader of the Jerusalem Church and died in AD 62, the victim of a conspiracy against him.
I wondered, as well, about the reputation of the book of James in the Church. His letter has been seen as a theological lightweight, a "strawy epistle", John Calvin called it. Luther didn't bother to write a commentary on it, about the only book of the Bible he didn't. James is a practical book. In his own words, "be doers of the word not hearers only", and "faith without works is dead". Probably because James had been with Jesus so much he knew he practiced what he preached. James knew it is not what we know but what we do with what we know that matters. In most churches there is plenty to listen to but not enough time to do much.
When I walk into church who do I talk to, sit near, laugh with? Who do I seek out at coffee time afterward? How do I spend my time during the week, and with whom? When am I hearing the word, and how am I doing it?