James 2:3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:
James in this chapter continues the idea of a religion that cares for those who cannot defend themselves (orphans and widows) in 1:27 by confronting the sin of partiality. This means we make decisions about people based upon their outer looks or what they can give us (James 2:2) which contradicts the Gospel that gives to us what we don’t deserve (James 2:1).
To illustrate his point James tells the story (which may have actually happened) of a rich and poor man who visited Church. Yesterday I touched on the sinful act of making decisions about a person based on their outer appearance, but the sin is greater in chapter two verse three where Believers acted on these perceptions of people.
The rich man in this story is given a place of great honor (probably place at head of the table) and the poor are instructed to either stand in the corner (far away from a place of honor at the table) or sit on the floor showing great dishonor.
Reading this verse in a way reminds me of the naughty chair. Now those of you who have experience working with children know exactly what I’m talking about, but for those who don’t this is a chair that you place strategically in the back of room, away from any other child (and the fun). It’s reserved for the boy or girl who won’t listen or obey and after warnings are told to sit in the naughty chair.
I have seen rooms full of children go from chaos to well-behaved because a teacher put a chair in the back of the room. I’ve seen a disobedient student cling to their chair and BEG not to be sent to the back. And I’ve seen them break out in tears and promise to be good if Mr. John gave them one more chance…just don’t put them in the naughty chair!
This chair is actually a strong form of punishment (which is why children get warnings first) but instead of physical it happens to be emotional, and sometimes even psychological. Kids don’t want to be in the naughty chair because it separates them from the fun, but in a deeper sense it’s the humiliation they dread more.
- That slow walk to the back while everyone stares at you
- Those looks they give you during class
- The fact that EVERYONE knows EXACTLY why you are there (disobeying)
- And anyone who walked into that room without knowing anything that went on would immediately realize that child in the back hadn’t been obeying
In other words the naughty chair is a place of great dishonor
Because of this it’s very important for me and other teachers to make sure someone deserves to sit in the naughty chair before sending them to the back of the room. And we have instituted a three warning system.
- Because a child who doesn’t listen to the first warning may not be paying attention
- The child who doesn’t listen to the second may be sitting friends who are being silly
- The child who receives a third (and final) warning may enjoy making everyone else laugh a little too much
- But only a child whose truly disobedient will ignore all three
Now lets apply this to James 2:3 shall we?
While there definitely wasn’t a naughty chair in the Jewish culture or early church, there was a place for those who deserved the least honor. According to James the Church in this situation told the poor man to immediately take the place of least honor (sit in the corner or on the floor) without even bothering to find out what kind of person they are.
This would be like my saying to a child who wore a ripped t-shirt, that’s it! Go to the naughty chair right now because we all know your going to be trouble!
This is about more about humiliation though since James later in this chapter says God gives greater honor to the poor (James 2:4-5) because of what’s in THEIR HEART. So in the eyes of God, a place of honor is reserved for those who have true character, and the place of dishonor for those who have none.
Truthfully the whole world is filled with naughty chairs (places of dishonor) and most of them are occupied by people we don’t think deserve honor (more on that tomorrow). But if we look past the outer exterior or things that they don’t have and start focusing on their heart, we will realize these are people who definitely deserve a place at the table.