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Sabbath School Lessons on James
About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 5: Love and the Law *
Introduction: Several times, in connection with a church
event, I recall conversations that shocked me. A couple of
times I recall talking to church members who I did not know
well, and they thanked me for talking to them. Why should they
thank me, I asked? Because they felt a class difference
between us. Once, a friend told me he was amazed I would be
his friend because of the differences in our jobs. Another
time, a medical doctor in church noted that we were both
wearing suits, and suggested that those who did not were of
lesser worth. I pointed out that we wore suits to work, and
that might be the primary reason for what we wore to church.
It was not a question of worth. There are other examples I
could recite. Each time someone suggested that my education or
my job made me more worth-while than someone else, I was
either surprised or offended. James talks about this in our
study today, but what he says (at least on the surface)
offends me too. Let's dive into the Bible and have an honest
discussion of "class" issues!
- Read James 2:1-4. What do you think, do all who come
to church deserve a good place to sit? (Yes, of
- Can you think of any reason to discriminate, on
the basis of wealth, between visitors who come
to your church? (If I could convince a very rich
person to become a member, it could be a great
financial blessing to the church. A very poor
person might become a financial liability for
- James calls this "discrimination" and "evil
thoughts." At what point is discrimination
using common sense and at what point is it evil?
(Treating poor people badly is evil. Recognizing
the advantage that a person can bring to your
church is common sense.)
- Let's take this out of the money and class
discussion for a moment. Would you work harder
to convince a great singer or great Sabbath
School teacher to join your church then someone
who will just warm a pew? (This reflects the
common sense aspect of this.)
- Read James 2:5. If discrimination based on wealth
is evil, isn't it discrimination for God to favor
the poor over the rich?
- Notice that James is asking a question. I think
he is being rhetorical, but let's treat it as a
real question. How would you answer it? (My
answer is "no," God has not chosen those who are
poor to be rich in faith. Consider several of
the heros of the Old Testament: Moses, Abraham,
Job, King David, Daniel - not one of these was
- Read Hebrews 11:32-39. What does this suggest
about success, wealth and faith? (All of these
people had faith - even though their lives
turned out very differently. The point here is
that money and success on earth are not related
- Scan Deuteronomy 28. What is the message here
about obedience and wealth? (This is a chapter
to which I often refer. It says obey God and
prosper. Disobey God and your life will be a
disaster. In particular, it says disobedience
- That means we have three apparently different
messages: James says God favors the poor with
faith, Hebrews says faith has no relationship to
success on earth, and Deuteronomy says that
obedience (faith) brings wealth. How would you
reconcile these three Bible messages?
- Read Proverbs 10:15 and Proverbs 4:6. What do these
texts say about wealth and wisdom? (They protect the
person who possesses them.)
- A popular book, the Bell Curve, connected higher
intelligence with greater education, and greater
education with higher income. I realize that
wisdom and intelligence are not the same, but I
believe these two Bible texts and this book tend
to prove a point about the wealthy - they are
protected by their money and their intelligence.
How would you relate this idea to James 2:5?
(Those who do not have money or high
intelligence to protect them, are more likely to
turn to God for protection. Those who can rely
on money and intelligence to solve problems, are
less likely to turn to God to solve problems.)
- Look again at James 2:5. If James is to be
understood in a way consistent with Hebrews and
Deuteronomy, would it be fair to say that "chosen"
means the poor are more likely to turn to faith in
God for problem-solving?
- Read James 2:6. Let's go back to the original
problem - making the poor sit on the floor while
giving the rich a nice seat. If you were to engage
in common sense discrimination based on income, what
would you conclude about the poor? (They were more
likely to be filled with faith - and thus people you
want to have in your church.)
- Read Matthew 28:19-20 and Revelation 3:15-17. If
you have accepted Matthew 28 as your mandate in
life, what kind of seat should you give the rich
in church? (Good seats, up close, because they
need to be converted and rely more on faith.)
- Class Warfare
- Read James 2:6-7. If someone asked you James' three
questions, would you say that person showed
favoritism towards the poor? Doesn't this person
sound biased against the rich?
- Notice that James' questions are based on
factual assertions - the rich exploit you. If
this were not true, would James have a
convincing argument? (James was most likely
writing to people who were now poor, so he might
be appealing to bias, but if what he said came
only from bias, I doubt he would be believed.
This must reflect the context of the time.)
- What about your context, do the rich exploit the
poor or do the poor exploit the rich? (I live in
a democracy. Because we have more poor people
than rich people, the rich are outnumbered in
votes. When God was in charge of Israel, He
created a basic 10% tax (a tithe)on income,
regardless of the amount of income. Leviticus
27:30. Where I live, the rich pay more because
they earn more, but they also pay a larger
percentage of their income. At one point, the
rich were taxed at a marginal rate of 90% of
income. (That has since been repealed.) What
does this suggest about exploitation in my
- Hopefully, fistfights have not broken out during
this Bible discussion! Let's get back to James'
original concern about bias. Should our views on
wealth cause us to treat people poorly when they
come to church? If you think the rich are taking
advantage of you or you think the poor are
taking advantage of you, how should you treat
those who you think are taking advantage? (We
should not insult anyone by treating them
- Look again at James 2:7. Is this true in your
culture, that the rich slander Jesus' name? (If
there is an inverse relationship between money and
reliance on God, then this is likely true.)
- Where would we want to seat those who slander
Jesus? (It they are serious in coming to church,
we certainly want to give them good seats so
they can hear the gospel message.)
- Do you think James would disagree with what
I just suggested? (I hope not! James
condemns insulting the poor. I agree. James
is not saying anything about how we should
seat those who most need to have their
- Universal Lawbreakers
- Read James 2:8. Wait a minute! What does James say
is the universal rule of law? (To love others as we
- How would you apply this rule to our class
warfare discussion? (No bias is permitted at
all. No bias against the poor. No bias against
the rich. No bias against those in the middle.
We treat everyone just like we would like to be
- Read James 2:9-11. Is James telling us that showing
favoritism to the rich is just like killing the poor
and showing favoritism to the poor is just like
killing the rich?
- Are you grateful for grace right now? (Read
Romans 3:19-24. James is making a very important
point, if you violate any part of the law you
violate it all. The law sets before us the goal
of putting bias behind us, and treating others
with love. But, thank God, we are saved by faith
- Read James 2:12-13. Are you going to be judged by
the law? (Not according to the text we just read in
Romans, if you rely on Jesus' righteousness.)
- What, then, is James' point? (Those who are not
saved by grace will be judged by God's law.
Wouldn't it make sense to live in accord with
God's law? God's law is for our benefit,
therefore it gives us freedom for those saved by
- Friend, this lesson, at bottom, is about showing
favoritism. Is this a problem in your life? If you
say "no," I doubt your word. Why not be honest,
right now, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you show
equal love to those around you?
- Next week: Faith that Works.
* Copr. 2014, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.