My thoughts (Steve Adams):
When I was grade-school-age and my family was sitting around the dinner table shooting the breeze at my grandparents’ farm in Illinois, the subject of applesauce came up. Someone said they like Musselman’s; then my grandmother said, “Well now, I’ve always been partial to Mott’s.” I had never heard anyone express a preference by saying they were partial to something, so it stuck in my mind. And we all have our preferences, don’t we? For some, it’s Coke vs. Pepsi. For others, it’s Miracle Whip vs. Hellman’s. Even though those things aren’t that important, it’s fun to know what you like, and learn what your friends and loved ones like as well.
However, there’s a type of partiality that’s very different from allegiance to a brand — and it can hamper our spiritual lives. James 2:8-13 talks about a harmful partiality (interestingly, I think James was a Proverbs fan, since so many his themes relate so strongly to some of them). Earlier in chapter two, James warns of a shallow favoritism that roadblocks love. He asks his readers if they would treat a well-dressed, wealthy person better than a poor person dressed in dirty clothes. This kind of favoritism prevents us from living the royal law, as James calls it — to love your neighbor as yourself. The upshot is that poor people are equal heirs to God’s kingdom because of their love for God — the same reason wealthy people are.
How can I honestly give less of God’s love to those who are poor, or whose personalities I don’t really like, or those who get on my nerves? James challenges us and stretches us to love more authentically. After this warning, James launches directly into the famous “how can you say you have faith if you don’t have works” section. So in effect he’s saying, if you have faith, you will not show shallow partiality, but will treat everybody equally, even though you’ll like some people better than others. OK James, thanks for giving us a challenge — you’re good at that!
The bottom line seems to be, if my partialities and preferences diminish my ability to love as God wants me to love, then I need to get rid of them. We can become overly attached to almost anything. Television, the computer, sleep, alcohol, sex, being a couch potato — those are just a few that pop into my head right now. We all have our likes and dislikes, and that’s part of what makes the world go ’round. But if I discover one of my preferences hampers my ability to love, then I need to detach from it — let God help me see it’s not as important as I think it is.
I liken it to drawing a picture. Have you ever seen a child’s drawing in which the people are bigger than the house they’re standing next to, and the family pet is the same size as the car? If I’m overly attached to something, then it’s kind of like when the cat I draw is as big as my house. Whatever I’m overly partial to seems much bigger and more important than it really is. It’s easy for me to become more attached to sleep than taking time to pray. In my mind’s eye, where my picture of relative importance resides, sleep has become much bigger than prayer.
Is there an antidote? Definitely! Quality conversation with God, getting to know other people of faith on a deep level (such as in Oasis), participating in worship, and taking classes cannot fail — as long as you do it all with a seeking heart. God puts everything back in perspective.
Prayer for the day: God, is there something I really like that distances me from you? If the answer is yes, I ask you to show me how to detach from it, because nothing gives me more joy than being close to you.
We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.