This is a basic application of Scripture…
Pastor Mix Knox recently answered a reader’s question about bad leaders in an episode of The Spiritual Fitness Show. The question was this: “I have witnessed leaders in my church playing favorites. Is this a sin?”
To answer this question, Pastor Knox draws upon the epistle from the Apostle James.
BIBLICAL RULE OF LAW
The Bible lays down a basic principle of law: “You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor” (Lev. 19:15).
The Apostle James teaches in his epistle that church leaders should not treat people differently based on external appearances. He gives the example of treating rich people differently in church from poor people. Pastor Knox reads from the opening verses of Chapter 2 which deals with the sin of partiality:
“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:1-4)
James knew the Old Testament law well. Church elders are called to be judges, but elders who play favorites inside the church to further their own personal power or career goals have become judges with evil thoughts.
James used the example of playing favorites between rich and poor for a reason. He was referencing Jesus’s teaching on perhaps the greatest rival Jesus has in this world: mammon (Mat. 6:24).
When a pastor depends entirely on the congregation for his income, it doesn’t take a wild imagination to suppose that James was warning against the practice of seducing the wealthy members to his side in order to firmly secure their donations.
FALSE DISTINCTIONS REVEAL BAD JUDGMENT
Pastor Knox says it is people with evil thoughts who make distinctions between church members. They drag them into court, he says. He speaks of how blind men can become when they look at externals.
They have been so blind, Knox said, that they missed God in the flesh.
“The super duper religious guys hanging out at the church, at the synagogue…they’re the ones looking for the externals. ‘This guy could really help us out. He’s really sharp. Oh, this guy? He’s just a carpenter’s son. Blue collar worker. Ah, nothing special about him.’
“They missed God in the flesh because they were looking at the externals. And shame on them! And shame was brought on them, wasn’t it?
“For they ran him through a court trial in the middle of the night. Shameful behavior for anyone! They ran him through a court trial in the middle of the night and find an innocent man guilty. Guilty, guilty, guilty. ‘He’s guilty!’ According to what? According to your man-centered, sinful hearts? Yea! He’s guilty then because you wanted him to be guilty. But he was guilt-less. He was sin-less. He committed no sin.”
Knox encourages his listeners to show no favorites and resist displaying partiality. Instead, he asks us to get to know our neighbors well. Paraphrasing from James, Knox says “Don’t judge like these elders inside of this session meeting or this presbytery meeting or maybe even a general assembly meeting…Let’s not be judges with evil thoughts. Let’s get to know these people. Let’s interact with them. Let’s not drag them into court.”
PARTIALITY AT MIDWAY
It may also remind members that Senior Pastor David Hall allegedly has a history of playing favorites on the Session, based on independent evidence supplied by a former elder who claims to have first-hand knowledge of such events.
Lastly, Knox’s admonition not to drag each other into court may remind readers about the on-going, seemingly never-ending trials of long-time servants of Midway and the Lord Jesus Christ.
“But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors,” wrote the Apostle (vs.9).
Knox issued a warning: God will not be mocked.
Regarding elders who have embraced a culture of partiality within the church, we should be reminded of the words of Ezekiel: “Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them” (Ez. 34:10).
Watch the full episode below: