The Sin No One Wants To Talk About

The sin of partiality can take many forms, affect many different sorts of people, and be called by many names.

This gospel does not make distinctions. It does not judge some to be superior and others to be inferior. God’s grace is not selective based on race or gender or any other criteria (Rom. 2:11; 3:22). If you are a sinner (as all are), then you are not only able to enter the house of God, but you need to enter the house of God. All are in need of the justifying work of Jesus Christ that saves.


There is a sin that is often overlooked, ignored, or unseen. It can take many forms, affect many different sorts of people, and be called by many names. In James 2, it is called the sin of partiality.

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 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, 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,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? … If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (Jm. 2:1-4, 8-10)

The kind of partiality referred to here isn’t the kind that just prefers steak over chicken. Partiality is a result of judging others and doing so unfairly. Like two sides of a coin, this partiality involves both loving and hating. James is specifically speaking about how people are treated when they enter into the presence of God with other believers. The assembly he writes to was showing favoritism to the rich while treating the poor with disdain as if they were inferior. They were making a distinction among themselves: a distinction that was evil and sinful. They were holding the faith in partiality, showing favoritism, and thus judging in a manner inconsistent with the faith they held.

Holding the Faith Impartially

This is sinful in God’s eyes because showing partiality is hating your neighbor, one of the two fundamental laws of God. More than that, however, it goes against the very gospel faith the assembly claims to hold to. The whole point of Christ’s kingdom ministry and work on the cross was to widen the doors of the assembly, to break down the barriers that once surrounded Israel, and to welcome any who believe, whether rich or poor, Jew or Gentile, male or female (Gal. 3:28). Before Christ, God’s covenant was ethnically specific. But now, because of Christ, all who believe in him “are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Furthermore, when Christ sent his apostles out into the world, he sent them to every nation (Matt. 28: 16-20).

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