April 23, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture—James 2:1-13 (NRSV)
My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?
You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For the one who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.
So far we’ve looked at two practices that help us stay aligned with God in a distracting world: attacking ego, then shutting up and listening. Today we’ll see why it’s so essential to “value community.” The word “community” gets used so often—and honestly, as an introvert, I can quickly grow tired of it—but community is exactly what we need to stay focused on God.
In our previous two devotions we saw how attacking ego and listening to others can help us stay aligned with God. These two practices work in tandem, pushing and pulling us. It’s a bit like a wrestling match.
Today, the third and most important practice is to Value Community.
James 2:1-13 is a great way to see how powerful a community can be. A good community keeps you from showing favoritism, holds you accountable, and puts you back on track toward loving your neighbor.
For leaders, this is both intuitively obvious and pragmatically difficult. Of course, I value community! After all, my desire as a leader is to build and nurture the community around me. But doing this well takes enormous effort. Sometimes the shortcut—just getting stuff done on my own—is incredibly tempting because it looks fast and easy. (And my ego thinks it’s a good idea!)
Over time, what allows us to consistently value community is the first two practices. If we have overactive egos and won’t shut up to listen, the value of community will always be diminished. It might not even be attainable. On the flip side, the first two practices guide us towards community. It’s the natural outcome.
And operating in community opens so many doors for God to show up!
As we close our final devotion, I need to say that these aren’t principles you put in place once and then forget about them. And they aren’t foolproof.
Rather, they’re proof against the foolishness of overvaluing ourselves, of being too quick to speak, and of operating as lone wolves. And my prayer is that these three practices might help you—like they help me—break down the walls that separate us from others.
They also might help you—like they help me—break down the walls that separate us from God.
What communities are life-giving to you?
How do those communities keep you from showing favoritism, hold you accountable, and put you back on track toward loving your neighbor?
Especially if you’ve identified gaps in your experience of community through our reflection questions, think about how you can seek out a community that will help you grow as a person and grow in Christ.
Lord, thank you for creating us as people who desire to be in community. Help us seek out communities where we can listen, be accountable, and minister in your name. Amen.
A Note from Mark:
I’m grateful to Roy Goble for sharing today’s devotion with us. If you don’t know Roy, you can read my introduction in Friday’s devotion. Let me also encourage you to check out Roy’s newest book, Junkward Wisdom Rebuilt. Grace and Peace, Mark
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Discriminating Against the Poor and Currying Favor with the Rich (James 2:1–13)
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Roy Goble grew up working in his father’s junkyard, where he learned to take apart absolutely anything and to evaluate everything for the value of its parts. After studying economics and business at Westmont College, and marrying his high school sweetheart, D’Aun, he joined his family’s growing real estate business. As the business flourished, he experienced the complexity of creating wealth while following Jesus. He began to wrestle with what he knew about business and what Jesus was calling him to be and do, beginning a decades-long quest for a way to understand his place in God’s kingdom and in a global society.
Click here to view Roy’s profile.