New Living Translation (NLT)
A Warning against Prejudice
2 My dear brothers and sisters,[a] how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?2 For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. 3 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, 4 doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?
Not long ago, I was Dollar Tree. I hadn't given much thought to my appearance that morning, and was wearing a worn out pair of knit capri pants, an over-sized and paint-splattered T-shirt, and a pair of black sandals adorned with rhinestones. My hair was disheveled, and I probably had smudges of mascara from the previous day still under my eyes. As I finished paying for my purchase and was about to leave, two women walked in, impeccably dressed. They looked me over from head to toe, and one of them actually rolled her eyes in disgust. At Dollar Tree. I know, right? I may have looked like something the cat drug in, but at least I fit in with my surroundings! Still, their look withered me. I left feeling like I hadn't showered in a week or something. That brief glance-over from a couple of snooty strangers who looked more like they belonged in Saks Fifth Avenue than a dollar store had really intimidated me!
I'd love to pretend I'm better than that, but I'm not. Recently, my youngest daughter called me up, and we were discussing the possibility of her coming to visit. She said it would be fun to engage in one of our favorite pastimes; People-watching while we shopped. Oh, what fun we used to have, sneering and giggling at someone wearing something ridiculous, or with some atrocious hairstyle. But when she said it, instead of feeling wistful, I felt an overwhelming sense of shame.
What a hypocrite I can be.
What right do any of us have to look at another person's appearance and make judgments? None. Jesus didn't just die for those of us who have every hair in place, coordinated clothing, and no lipstick smudges on our teeth. He died for the People Of Walmart, too.
What would your reaction be if you saw a woman come into church on a Sunday morning wearing a dress cut so low at the neckline, and so high at the hemline, that very little was left to the imagination? Would you pretend not to notice her, or would you glare her direction hoping she'd get the hint? Would you welcome her, and invite her to sit near the front next to you? Or would you quietly direct her to a seat in the back row? I've heard tales that some churches would even turn her away at the door, inviting her to return after she was dressed more appropriately.
Or what would you do if you went into a restaurant to grab a bite to eat, and saw an unkempt man who smelled bad, had spittle on his beard, and a chronic runny nose? Would you give him a wide berth as you moved towards the entrance? Or would you stop and ask if he would like to join you for lunch?
I may be a hypocrite at times, but I can honestly say that these two situations have actually happened to me. The woman who came to our church slipped in after the service began, and out before it ended. I wasn't alone in wishing she'd stayed. Our church had a label. It was a recovery church. If she had stayed, she'd have been warmly welcomed, and encouraged to come back any time. Nobody would have mentioned her clothes. We would have let the Holy Spirit do His work on her heart. Unfortunately, she never returned.
As for the man, well, I was on my way to see my oldest daughter, and had stopped at The Mad Greek in Baker, California. The management wouldn't allow him inside, but he graciously accepted food. We sat together on the patio eating our lunch. He was an intelligent man, a former professor, and he was dying of cancer. He said he'd made himself a home in a small cave out in the desert, about a quarter mile from Baker. His only family was a daughter, from whom he'd been estranged for many years. He said he had sent letters and tried to reach her many times, in hopes of reconciling before he died. So far, he'd never gotten a response. The one thing he wanted most, besides his daughter, was something to keep his mind alert and active. Before I left him, I grabbed a book that I'd just purchased. I had only read the first chapter, and someday I'll get another copy. I wrote some encouraging words on the inside cover and handed it to him. The book was called Don't Just Stand There, Pray Something. i prayed for him often for a while after that. i hope he eventually was able to find his daughter.
God says in Hebrews 13:2 that we should always treat strangers kindly, for we don't know whether the person is really a scuzz-ball or whether he's an angel in disguise. We're told in James 2:5-7 that poor people have been chosen to be rich in faith, and that we should not dishonor them in favor of some rich dude that would be all to quick to sue you for serving him hot coffee that burned when he spilled.
When we look down our noses at some people and pander to others who project a nicer image, we're not making God happy. Not at all. In fact, He comes right out and says if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. (James 2:9) It doesn't reflect Christ who is supposed to be living inside you. To show favoritism indicates that you're being led by your own selfish agenda instead of by the Holy Spirit, and that's evil! If you look down your nose at others, God's going to look down His at you, and you're not going to like it. Trust me, I know this firsthand! And when you brown nose those who are above you, all you're going to get is two nostrils full of poo.