Honor and Dishonor in the Church (James 2:5-7)

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

“Honor and Dishonor in the Church”

(James 2:5-7)

Series: Living the Faith [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

December 17, 2017

Introductory Comments:

We are continuing our series through the book of James.

Before we get there, I want to remind you to pass out all of these Christmas Eve invitation cards.

(offer a short review of the book of James)

New young pastor; James a servant of Jesus Christ and leader of the Jerusalem church.

Joy in trials.

Ask God for wisdom.

The poor boast in exaltation; rich boast in humiliation.

Crown of life for those who endure.

God does not tempt. We are tempted by evil desire.

Every good gift comes from God.

Quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry.

Be doers of the word, not hearers only.

Controlling our tongue; not deceiving ourselves with false religion. True religion is to look after orphans and widows.

Do you remember all of that?

We remember from chapter 1 that James says the poor should boast in the riches found in Jesus, and the rich man should boast that he finds humility in the gospel. He comes before God and acknowledges his need for Him.

We started chapter 2 last week and heard James speak about not showing favoritism and not making distinctions, primarily distinctions based on wealth or poverty.

Now, James wants to offer some more explanation as to why we are not to make these kinds of distinctions.

It’s important to understand this word from James.  You see, he was speaking to the early Jewish Christians nearly 2,000 years ago, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, he is also speaking to us today.

So, let’s see what he is saying to us.

Read the Passage

Read James 2:5-7

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Didn’t God choose the poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? Yet you have dishonored the poor. Don’t the rich oppress you and drag you into court? Don’t they blaspheme the good name that was invoked over you?

Let’s pray together.


You know, James and I think a lot alike.

I love how James starts this passage off by saying “listen.”  He wants his readers to pay attention!  And, we should pay attention also.

He says, “my dear brothers and sisters.”  Other translations say, “my beloved brethren.”  Clearly, James cares about his readers.

He cares for them and he wants them to pay attention to what he has to say.

This message is important to James and it’s important for them to pay attention.

So, what are these things to which James calls our attention?

First, the book of James teaches us . . .

I. Don’t dishonor those whom God honors (v. 5-6a) [on screen]

James says in verse 5,

“Didn’t God choose the poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?”

James points out once again that the poor are exalted by Jesus Christ.

Let us not forget that wealth found in the gospel is immensely more valuable than that which is found in the world.

Remember, poverty and riches mean nothing before God!

God makes the poor in this world rich in faith!

James further says that they are heirs of the kingdom!

Everything in this planet belongs to God and James says that we are heirs of the kingdom of God.

That’s some big-time wealth right there.

James says that the inheritance is promised to those who love Jesus.

Poverty and riches on this earth mean nothing when it comes to the kingdom of God.

What matters is what we do with Jesus!

In the first part of verse 6, James says,

 “Yet you have dishonored the poor.”

This is troubling.

Even though God has not only accepted the poor, but has chosen them to be heirs of His kingdom, James’ readers were being accused of rejecting them.

Think about that for a second. By God’s grace, they’re good enough to inherit His kingdom, yet they are not good enough for the church to accept them.

God loves them, the church loathes them.

God exalts them, the church excludes them.

God considers them heirs, the church considers them hindrances.

Now, of course, this is not always the case; but this can happen when we are not careful; if we make the wrong kind of distinctions, the kind James mentions in verse 4.

We must always remember the poorest person in this world, could be the richest person in Christ.

We should not dishonor the poor.  We should not dishonor those whom God honors.

Further, James not only teaches not to dishonor those whom God honors, but he also says . . .

II. Don’t honor those who dishonor God (vv. 6b-7) [on screen]

Now, we shouldn’t need instruction on this, right?

Don’t honor those who dishonor God.  Pretty simple.  Right?


However, James reveals that the believers of that day were doing just that.

James describes the type of people that the Christians of the day were favoring over the poor.

Listen again to what James says. Let’s pick it up in the second part of verse 6.

Don’t the rich oppress you and drag you into court? Don’t they blaspheme the good name that was invoked over you?

James says, “These are the people that are oppressing you!  These are the people that are suing you for financial gain!  These are the people that are slandering the name of Jesus!”

It was not uncommon in James’ day for the rich and powerful to take advantage of the poor and weak.

Many of the Christians were, in fact, poor, due partly to the fact that they were facing persecution.

I’ve seen this type of financial persecution first hand when I was able to visit the country of Laos. Many of the Laotian believers were persecuted for following Jesus.  I met people whose relatives had been killed for their faith.  I heard of Christians who had been forced out of their homes and off of their rice farms and resorted to living in the jungle because all they had was taken from them. I worshipped with the church in Laos as we were encouraged to meet in a home, secretly, so the government officials wouldn’t hear what we were talking about as we fellowshipped together.

Imagine that all of this was happening in a gathering of Christians, who were persecuted, who were forced into poverty, and yet they would show honor to the very people that were oppressing them.  That would be ludicrous!

James is saying, not only should you not dishonor the poor because God honors them, but also, the very ones that you are showing favor to are the ones that bring you difficulty.

Even of more concern is the fact that James says that these people are the ones who speak maliciously against the good name that is invoked over the Christians: the name of Jesus Christ.

As we discussed in chapter one, the wealthy may have a particular temptation not to think that they need anything from God.  They may think they have the power, the money, the influence to accomplish all that they need, without any assistance from anyone else.

The crazy thing about it is, often the more power and money that we get, the more power and money that we want.

John D. Rockefeller famously said this: When a reporter asked him, “How much money is enough?” He responded, “Just a little bit more.”

We have this temptation within us to turn inward when we are powerful and successful. We tend to not look to others for help.

You can just picture someone saying, “I don’t need God!  I don’t need anything!  I have everything that I need!”

In so doing they would dishonor the name of God.

However, James says that the name of God is a good name.  Some Bible translations say, “the fair name,” “the honorable name,” “the noble name,” “the worthy name.”

The name of Jesus is a good name, indeed!  The name of Jesus is worthy of praise and honor and glory!

One day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father! (Philippians 2:10-11).

They may speak ill of the name of Jesus on this earth, but they will one day give Jesus the glory due to His name.

James knows this, and he reminds his readers of this. He exclaims to the Christians, do not show honor to these people that oppress you and speak ill of the one true living God.

Concluding Thoughts:

Remember, James is not saying that God loves the poor, while He doesn’t love the rich. No!  James is saying that the poor were being oppressed by the rich and even dishonored by some of the Christians.

James says that this is shameless.

We should not honor oppressors and dishonor the oppressed. We should model God’s standard for honor.

That brings us to our bottom line:

Bottom Line: Honor those whom God honors[on screen]


That’s pretty simple. Let’s focus on that.

Here’s our weekly challenge for this week:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

  1. Ask yourself how someone earns your honor[on screen]

Whom do you honor?  The powerful?  Celebrities?  Musicians?  Sports heroes?  The wealthy?

What do they have to do to earn your honor?

Do you show honor to those who work by God’s value system?

  1. Purpose this week to honor what God honors[on screen]

Identify what God honors.

Make that your priority in your life, personally, and by what you honor in others.


We are to show unconditional love to our brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter if they meet the standards of this world or not.

Likewise, we should show unrivaled love to the lost world around; displayed primarily through the gospel.

Jesus can reverse our standing in this world.  If we feel helpless in our poverty, He will give us hope through the richness of His salvation.  If we are prideful in our satisfaction of our wealth, He will give us true humility and satisfaction in Him.

He will also change everything about our lives.  He will give us a new value system and new affections. He will properly align our lives.

(Gospel Presentation)

(Closing Prayer)


Join us tonight for our Christmas Musical at 5:30.  I can’t wait!!!  I hope to see you all here!!!

Let’s dismiss by singing the Doxology. 

(Sing Doxology)

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