James 2:1-9 My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called? If, however, you are fulfilling 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.

We are a middle class American church. We may range from the depths of middle class to the higher fringes of middle class, but we are primarily a middle class church. We descended from a strong work ethic in a rural environment that managed with values and behavior strange to today’s America.

Many of us adults adopted those values and perspectives. Most of us do not live as our grandparents lived, but the older of us still hold many of their values and perspectives.

However, times have changed considerably. Now we have adults who do not know those values and perspectives. We have young people who have never seen or heard of those values and perspectives. While our grandparents knew ‘hard times’, now there are people in the church who live exclusively in prosperity and its lifestyle.

Do you doubt we are a middle class church? How do you feel if the congregation has a sizeable number who assemble here to praise God from true poverty circumstances? Or, if our building is used to provide support groups a meeting place to teach and encourage those who confront addictions? Or if we mix “our” children in classes with children who come from obviously different environments?

Perhaps the biggest shock comes if circumstances require us to live in a third world country. Much of the world’s population resides in such countries. After we get past the curious tourist stage, our eyes see things and ears hear things never seen or heard before. We see people truly trapped in poverty, who never have enough to eat, who could put the entire family’s clothing in one of our closets—and still have empty space, who are sick most of the time (by our definition), and who likely will die before the age of 50.

Shockingly, these people smile more, are less anxious, are more thoughtful, and are more grateful than many of us. Conversion changes nothing physically for many of them, but they are so grateful to know the hope given by the living God.

May we develop God’s eyes and ears as we look at ourselves and others!

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 30 June 2005

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