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and you look with favor upon 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,” (James 2:3)
James highlights the fact that these believers decided that he was worthy of special attention. James says these believers look with favor upon the one who is wearing the fine clothes. The believers determined the rich man rather than the poor man to be worthy of their attention due to his external appearance. They even give the rich man special privileges in the fact that they tell him you sit here in a good place. In the synagogue in the first century, the best seats were those at the end of the room where everyone could see them and that faced Jerusalem. The seat was also next to the platform where the speaker would give his exposition of Scripture. This was a seat of honor for a special guest or speaker coming into town, and all knew that the one who sat there was a person of honor. Favoritism is always easily spotted in the fact that favors, time, and focus are given to a particular person. Here in this passage, the ones who were favorites were getting the good seats in the synagogue simply because of their wealth.
While the rich man was being treated with special honors, James presents the contrast with how the poor are treated. They are quick to notice the rich man, give him all the attention, and yet barely even recognize the poor man who came into the assembly. They treat the poor man as if he was less than human, saying; you stand over there or sit down by my footstool. Based on the externals of the poor man as having no wealth or anything valuable, they deemed him not worthy of their time or their attention. Sadly, “the situation is clear enough: Christians in positions of some authority in the community (the verb ‘show special attention’ is in the plural) are fawning over the rich and treating the poor with disdain and contempt.” (Moo 2000, 104) Thomas D. Lea writes, “The handsome apparel of the rich man earned special treatment for him (v. 3). The greeter gave him a place of special honor. The soiled clothing of the poor man earned indifference to his comfort or feelings. He received the options of standing in some undesirable place or sitting on the floor near the greeter. The greeter showed no concern for his needs.”
The sense of 2:3 is that Christians have no right to form a conclusive judgment of men when we see them for the first time. We do not treat one with respect and the other with disrespect because of their appearance. It should be by other means of judging quality of a person as to whether they are a good associate or not, such as behaviors, characteristics, qualities, instead of whether they wear gold rings, and dress well, or not.
 Thomas D. Lea, Hebrews, James, vol. 10, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 281.
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