My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
James opens these passages with the term, “my brothers.” This is an indication to us that James is speaking of fellow believers, fellow Christians. He does this purposely as to leave us no room to argue that he is speaking of non-believers. James is speaking directly to the prejudices and wicked behavior of those claiming to be followers of Christ. They claim faith in Jesus, but follow the world by showing partiality for personal gain and recognition. The word used by James here for churches is the Greek word for the Synagogue. This shows us that James is speaking to Jewish believers. James wrote this letter early in church history, a time when most Christians were Jewish converts who may have still been meeting inside the local Synagogues. James contrast two different kinds of men in these passages. Both of his examples are the above average, extreme opposites of each other.
In James example, this would be the “super-rich” and the “super-poor.” James tells us as followers of Jesus, we are to look at the hearts of men without prejudice to the outward appearance. We are looking at their character, their passion for Jesus and their passion for His word. We are not to judge by the quality of their clothing or their material possessions. What James is telling us and this is a very important point is we are not to judge as the world judges, looking at the external things and wealth. We are not to be enamored with the things of this world which we know are passing away. Instead, we are to be looking at the heart and godly character of a person. We understand the expectations of God are that we treat each other equally and fairly before the Lord. And we do so because of the love we have for Jesus, the love God has shown us and the love we have been so freely given. A love we are to freely share with others, without expecting anything in return.