It is my firm belief that service to the poor is not some special spiritual “calling,” but a normative part of the Christian life, just like attending church or praying or reading your Bible. So why aren’t more Christians involved in caring for the poor? One reason I’ve encountered is ignorance. We discussed this point previously.
Ignorance tends to breed stereotyping, which breeds prejudice, which breeds partiality.
Partiality is the practice of favoritism. It is an act of the will that transcends the stereotypes and prejudices of our mind.
Let’s see what partiality looked like in the first century church:
James 2:1 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? 8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
In our time, we also have “dishonored the poor man” (v. 6). This “dishonoring” manifests itself in the omission of regular and consistent acts of basic Christian compassion toward others who are in great need of such ministry.
In this, we too are guilty of “committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”
Like the early church, we also are guilty of showing partiality toward our weaker brothers and sisters by refusing to do what we can to come alongside them and encourage them in the Lord. It seems that Christians are frequently too busy disputing amongst themselves over minor and relatively obscure points of doctrine, or too busy pouring all of their energy back into their own congregations to help their poor brothers and sisters who remain outside the walls of our oases of Christian sanctuary.
May God give us eyes to see our weaker brethren as He sees them. May this motivate us to love and service and the elimination of partiality in our midst, by the power of His Holy Spirit.