There is no doubt that when James wrote his epistle he had a "take no prisoners" attitude with many of the issues of the day. James wrote in "black and white" terms that are hard for people to deal with in our compromising times. Some people refer to this as dogma and they turn it into a negative thing. As Christians we refer to it as truth but when we stand by it the world is more than willing to make us feel like we are an oddity and we don't fit in. This should be a positive thing to us because we don't fit in, we are not suppose to but many Christians have problems with standing out from the crowd and are more than willing to compromise. Consider this:
My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. (James 2:1)
Seems like a minor point, doesn't it? Yet, the context in which James puts it speaks the truth to us. So many churches want to attract people with money so that they can meet their financial obligations. Makes perfect business sense. I even had a friend who mused that the problem with his church is that he had too many poor people. Pastors forget that they are not responsible for coming up with the finances of the church; God is. We are not a business; we are the Body of Christ. The fact is that Christ has always been welcomed among the poor and rejected by the rich and supposed educated people:
Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong? (James 2:5-7)
How much have we compromised to accommodate the rich and the educated, to try to attract them, to try to make them feel comfortable? It doesn't work. Who is it that is slandering the name of our Lord Jesus Christ? Who is it that is making movies that drag down Jesus' authority and place over creation? Most of the rich, famous and educated are constantly dragging down the things that are holy and beautiful. Now ask yourself who has the greatest need of faith to live each day? The person who relies on their bank account and intelligence or those who trust God for daily provision and direction in their life? Give me a church filled with those who rely on God for daily sustenance every day because that will be the church filled with the real power of faith. Faith is discovered in the absence of plenty, when we have a choice to hold on and believe or let go and die.
There is a reason why Jesus told the rich young man to go and sell all he had, give it to the poor and then follow him. Until we learn to be dependent entirely on Jesus for everything in our life we will not know the power and certainty of faith. If I don't need God why would I rely on him? Of course this premise can only be carried as far as the maturity of the rich. There are certain individuals who have money and wisdom which allows them to know that dependence goes beyond finances and comfort in this world. I have met many great Christians who happened to have money but they saw that everything they had belonged to the Lord and they were only managers. This understanding takes a real relationship with Jesus and a great deal of maturity.
We need to stop worrying about the image of the Church among the "respectable" people and accept what Jesus knew from the beginning: we need to take the gospel to those who are capable of understanding that they need Jesus. Those who do not think they need Jesus will not listen to the gospel until something happens in their life when they realize the truth of the gospel message. Faith usually follows crisis and some of us live crisis every day as we continue to fall into the arms of Jesus to meet the needs we can't meet for ourselves. We should not be turning away the poor from our churches; we should be filling it up to the rafters with those who are capable of knowing they need Jesus. Then we will see the power coming back in as we see real people of faith returning.