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James 2:3

ESV and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,”
NIV If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, 'Here's a good seat for you,' but say to the poor man, 'You stand there' or 'Sit on the floor by my feet,'
NASB and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the bright clothes, and say, 'You sit here in a good place,' and you say to the poor man, 'You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,'
CSB if you look with favor on the one wearing the fine clothes and say, "Sit here in a good place," and yet you say to the poor person, "Stand over there," or "Sit here on the floor by my footstool,"
NLT If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, 'You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor' — well,
KJV And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:

What does James 2:3 mean?

In the prior verses, James suggested the idea of two men coming into a gathering of Christians. Outwardly, these men are very different. One shows all the signs of earthly wealth and power: expensive jewelry and clothing. The other one is literally wearing filthy clothes. James began this section by telling believers not to show favoritism as they trust in Christ. Or, put another way, that Christians should reflect our ultimate trust in Christ by not showing favoritism to one group of people over another. Trust Christ to provide, instead of buttering up the wealthy in hopes of gaining powerful allies.

Here in verse 3, James gets specific about what sinful favoritism looks like. It involves attention and honor. If you give extra attention to the wealthy man, while engaging with the poor man as little as possible, you are showing favoritism. If you give the wealthy man one of the best seats, while directing the poor man to stand or to sit on the floor as a servant would, you are showing favoritism.

Even more so than in the modern day, the place a person was seated reflected their status in that group. It wasn't just about having a good view of the platform or being on the aisle. It was about recognizing a person's social status. One's social status in the world, James will insist, should not determine their status within the family of Christ.
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