Due to inclement weather, the 9 a.m. service for Sunday, Jan. 20 has been cancelled. We will have one morning service at 10:45 a.m. as road conditions improve.

Hospitality: Prince or Pauper?

by Tim Yates

How do you treat guests when they visit your Church? Yes! YOU. Do you treat them like a Prince or like a pauper? James gives us a story about a rich man and a poor man visiting a local “assembly” (synagōgē). He says, “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. 2 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, 3 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,” 4 have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? 7 Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called? 8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; 9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin” (James 2:1-9). Sin? YES, SIN!

First, notice the command (v. 1). James is talking to believers in the local assembly (including greeters and the hospitality team). In verse 1, he addressed them as “My brethren.” And then in verse 5, he says, “Listen, my beloved brethren.” There’s no doubt James is addressing members of the synagogue or congregation. With that being said, what is the command? Underscore the words “do not” in verse 1. James insisted, these unfriendly members “NOT” embrace the Christian faith that showed partiality. This is a scolding command. A rebuke. A reprimand. “DO NOT” have this kind of Christian faith. What’s the problem? They received the rich with great fan fair while degrading “the poor.” They were grouping people by socio-economical class. Like Hollywood, they determined self-worth by their net worth. They treated the rich like Princes, and they treated the poor like paupers. James commanded, “do not” show partiality (v. 1).

Second, notice the clothing (v. 2-3). Both guests were defined by their dress. The rich man had on “gold rings” and “fine apparel.” In reference to the rich man’s clothing, the word “fine” means to shine and sparkle. The attire of the rich bedazzled the crowd. On the other hand, the “poor man” had on “filthy clothes.” He was dirty, shabby, and unclean. Will the church crowd “pay attention to” the rich or the poor? Will you seat the rich man in a “good place” and make the poor man “stand” or even “sit at my footstool” (v. 3)? Unfortunately, this assembly defined people by wardrobe. Guests who wore designer clothing were given the best seats in the house. On the other hand, the poor people didn’t receive the same attention. In fact, they were ignored. They treated the rich like Princes and mistreated the poor like paupers.

Third, notice the classification. “But you have dishonored the poor man” (v. 6). The word “dishonored” (atimazo) means to treat shamefully or to degrade. When you dishonor a guest, you degrade that guest. You place very little value on that person. That, my friend, is “partiality” or favoritism, and partiality and favoritism is SIN (v. 8). Let’s treat all people like a prince. How Can I Treat People like a prince?

Let me give you four points of action:

Action Point #1:
Value all people. If you value people, you will treat them like a prince. Even James says, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well;” (v. 8). Do you want to “do well?” Then, love and value people. Then you will “fulfill the royal law” and please God. Value all people.

A few months ago, I was reading through 1 Peter, and the Holy Spirit turned me inside out. Peter was sharing how to live as a believer. At the close of the paragraph, Peter gave a short, pithy statement. Yet it is a powerful pithy statement. I’ve read it many times before. Even memorized it. But this time, it was like a hammer hitting me in the head. Peter said, “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17). Hermeneutically, I immediately saw the command to “honor” two times in the text. The word “honor” (timaō) means to set a price, to value. The command is to “Honor all people,” the pauper, and to “honor the king,” the prince. Both the prince and pauper are of equal value. However, in contemporary culture, we honor the prince and dishonor/ignore the pauper. A few days before reading this text, Queen Elizabeth died (September 8, 2022). Every channel on television carried the big story, “Queen Elizabeth dead at the age of 96 years old.” Then all attention turned to Prince Charles, who will accede to the British throne. News outlets showed footage of people desperate to touch Prince Charles. The multitudes thronged him.

I wondered what it would look like on Sunday morning if Prince Charles came to Lewis Memorial Baptist Church. The press, the masses of people would swarm him. By the way, Peter commanded, “honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17). But then my mind shifted to the normal everyday visitor who might visit us this coming Sunday. And I thought about the first part of 1 Peter 2:17 “Honor ALL people.” Honor the people and equally honor the king. And vice versa. Value the prince and value the pauper. This is sacred Scripture. This is the Bible. Yet, why do we show such partiality? Distinction and classification? Favoritism? I know we would roll out the red carpet for Prince Charles. But will we roll out the red carpet for all guests? Do you value the guests who visit Lewis Memorial Baptist Church? Would you value the prince more than the pauper? Or will you “honor all men” this Sunday?  

Action Point #2:
Come 30 minutes early on Sunday morning and welcome one new family to our church. Someone you don’t know. Write down their name. Pray for them each morning when you have your devotions. Next Sunday, when you see them greet them by name and let them know how glad you are to see them. Unfortunately, many church members gather in “Holy Huddles” and only talk to people they know. We talk about the Super Bowl, College Football, and maybe NASCAR. Don’t get caught up in the trap/blindness of talking only to your friends. Intentionally OPEN your spiritual eyes and look for the lost, unknown, and unloved. These are the people Jesus is looking for.

Action Point #3:
Be prepared to serve our guests. Company is in the house. Don’t ignore the very people GOD sent US. If they have children, DON’T tell them where the children’s ministry meets. TAKE THEM downstairs to where the children’s ministry meets. Introduce them to the various workers. Help them find the restroom. Help them find the member who invited them to Church. This is a BIG deal with guests. It’s a game-changer. I’ve seen their terrified face light up when they see someone they know. I understand that serving is NOT a good word in most congregations. Why? Because we want to be served. Consumerism has overtaken the church. Give ME the religious goods and services. The attitude is, “I come to BE blessed, NOT BE a blessing.” Be prepared this Sunday to serve our guests.

Action Point #4:
Memorize Romans 15:7. Ask God to help you live out this biblical truth. If you’re a “deep lifer,” take this verse deep in application (you’re spiritual DNA). Take it seriously. Paul said, “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Rom 15:7 ESV). How did Christ welcome you into the family of God? In the same way, the Father welcomed the Prodigal Son into the family of God. He pursued YOU, and He welcomed YOU with open arms (Luke 15:20-22). This Sunday, live out this verse. Don’t ignore it. Memorize it and do it.  

In closing, Beware! Don’t ignore the people God is sending to our church. Can I be honest? I’m afraid I see them, but I don’t think you see them. Do YOU see them? They’re walking into our church in droves. Just look around. I’ve never seen anything like this before. Please, don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to serve people. To value people. To see people, not jewelry, designer clothing, and fancy cars. Not rich, not poor. Just people. God sent people. Love them. Serve them. Welcome them. Pray for them. Roll up your sleeves and be prepared to serve them. Serve the prince and serve the pauper. They’re here. They’re coming. But the question is, “How will YOU receive them this Sunday?” Don’t let them walk past you without even acknowledging they exist. Say, “Good morning. We are so glad you’re here.” Stop and think. It wasn’t like this before covid, and I don’t know how much longer it will continue. All I can say is we better, “Seize the day.” Will you help make Lewis Memorial Baptist Church a Romans 15:7 Church? With over-the-top hospitality. Where every guest is honored, valued, and loved. Both the prince and the pauper.

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