Our Scripture reading for today is:
James 2:1 My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
James 2:5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?
There is a real problem in ANY church when it comes to favoritism. Although Peace Lutheran is PRETTY good when it comes to favoritism of the rich and the despising of the poor, there is always work to be done. But my main observation is that there is a real perceived problem by the POOR themselves! Somehow they just ASSUME that the church is not FOR the poor. You have to “pay your membership fees” if you want baptism, confirmation, weddings, etc. This kind of thing actually DOES happen in the Catholic church, unfortunately, and so then they seem to think that that rule is applicable to all churches, or the church as it SHOULD be.
And I don’t think most people appreciate the anxiety that a poor person without clothes, perhaps nice teeth (or any at all) has when they walk in the church. They can’t read very well… have nothing to put in the offering plate… How CAN the church welcome these individuals and learn how to treat them as Christ Jesus would?
And then there is treating the rich more favorably… The pastor often doesn’t find it so easy to confront the individual who’s contribution to the church is essential to its operation if he/she is sinning against the Lord… We just NATURALLY treat those who have money and prestige BETTER than we treat those who don’t.
Let us pray for our church, and the church as a whole, not forgetting our own self, that we might truly love our brothers and sisters whether they are rich or poor!