James is writing to a group of Jewish Christians, first century, who have been exiled from Palestine. As a result, these people are doubly rejected. They're rejected once, first simply because they were Jews living among Gentiles. They had no privileges, they weren't among their own people. The Jews that they could find rejected them as well, because they had themselves put their faith in the Messiah. So these were really poor, desperately poor people who were... poor people will do things to try to position themselves with people they think are influential and maybe can better their life.
James is dealing with that. That's happening. People are coming into their churches who maybe one has a little bit more money, maybe has a lot of money, has nice clothes. Everybody else here has kind of has drab clothes. This guy has got some money. So we're going to kind of position him in a seat of honor. If someone comes who's desperately poor like the rest of us, he can sit at our feet. We're not gonna kick him out, but we're not gonna make any special... James says, "That's hypocrisy, you're dividing what God's done. You're showing favoritism." He gives this example that ... You want to have religion that God's impressed with, here's what you do. You care for widows and orphans in their need, and keep yourself unstained from the world. Then right after that he launches into this whole thing about if somebody comes into your assembly, the poor man.
We spend a lot of time talking about having the right content in our messages, and I think that's right. However, if it doesn't work itself out and caring for people. This is James' point: caring for people who have nothing to give back to you... how do you treat those people? How do you treat people who really your position, your standing, your quality of life, stands nothing to gain by investing in them? Does that caveat cause you to say, "I think I'll invest in that person?" James says, "True religion follows God's examples by saying I'm gonna give and I'm gonna invest in people, and I'm gonna grace people who have nothing to offer me." What could be more like Jesus than that?