We are in a series called life hacks and we want to remind you that a life hack is actually a good thing. A life hack is a new way and at times a novel way of doing something that is better than the old way. A life hack can make a chore easier and an experience better than it was before. Last week we talked about many great uses for coffee filters and someone told me that I forgot the most important use of coffee filters for parents who have children home for the summer. You rip the filter into quarters, roll it up, and stick it in your ears. Instant ear-plugs. I can’t share the source of that hack.
Since many people travel during the summer here are some life hacks that might help.
1. Roll your clothes when you pack. It reduces wrinkles and increase space.
2. Add dryer sheets to your suitcases to keep clothes smelling fresh.
3. Dryer sheets can help repel bugs. Bounce repels mosquitoes.
While these are fun, and I love sharing a few each week, what we really want to do is learn how to make our faith stronger and live in ways that are more pleasing to God. We are reading through the book of James which gives us several practical ways for us to do just this.
James has 108 verses which contain 59 commands, and James encourages us to follow them all so that we don’t just hear God’s word but do what it says. While obedience is often the key to a stronger faith, we need to remember that our obedience does not make God love us more. God can’t love us any more than he already does. God’s love is unconditional. God reached out in love to us before we turned back to Him, so our actions have nothing to do with God’s love. Being obedient to God’s word doesn’t make God love us more, but God does love it when we follow him.
We have already seen that James gives us some solid life principles to follow. The first principle we learned was that we will not live free FROM trials but that we can live free UNDER trials. Problems will come to all of us, but we can learn how to live free and full lives during these difficult times. Last week we learned that we need to be doers of God’s word because faith without action is dead. Today’s life principle has to deal with how we treat others, and it is built on the idea that God shows no favoritism.
Deut. 10:17 – The Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality.
2 Chronicles 19:7 – Judge carefully for with the Lord our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery.
Romans 2:11 – God does not show favoritism.
God shows no favoritism, and so as followers of Jesus, God in the flesh, neither should we. We need to treat all people the same, with love, kindness, and compassion. Growing up, my parents worked hard to show that there were no favorites between me and my sisters. My mom would work out to the penny how much they spent on all our Christmas gifts, to make sure they were always even. The number of gifts might be different the cost was the same. For the most part, my parents did pretty well, but let me just say, I am the youngest and the only boy so clearly I was their favorite.
But God says we are to show no favoritism and we read this in James 2:1. My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. It can’t get much clearer than that. We are not to show any kind of favoritism and yet the truth is that there are conscious and unconscious biases that we all have that lead us to favoring some people over others.
An unconscious bias is a bias that we are unaware of and which happens outside of our control. It is a bias that happens automatically and is triggered by our brain making quick judgments and assessments of people and situations, influenced by our background, cultural environment, and personal experiences. In these situations we aren’t intentionally trying to favor a person or group of people, but we do.
Malcolm Gladwell shares an unconscious bias that is seen in CEO’s of Fortune 500 Companies. Research shows that 58% of all Fortune 500 CEO’s are over 6 feet tall. Now, clearly Fortune 500 companies didn’t come together and make a rule that only tall people could lead their companies, but there is clearly an unconscious bias that says men over 6 feet tall make better leaders. In fact, 30% of Fortune 500 CEO’s are over 6’2”, while only 3.9% of men are that tall.
Unconscious biases take place all the time. Studies have shown that in the Emergency Room, people from a higher income bracket are given more pain medication than people from a lower income bracket. ER workers insist that this is not true, but studies have shown this again and again. While this kind of favoritism can be painful and keep some people down, it is not as hurtful as a conscious bias, which are the preferences we have that we are aware of. When we intentionally discriminate against a person because of their race, gender, age, economic or marital status, or educational level, it breaks God’s heart because God shows no favoritism and that is what God wants from us.
Because favoritism happens all the time, consciously and unconsciously, we need to be aware of it and looking for it, so James tells a story that helped people see how favoritism can creep into our lives and our actions. James 2:2-5.
When James wrote this, people in different social and economic brackets got to wear different clothing and jewelry. If you were in one bracket you got to wear rings, in another bracket a special kind of robe, and so it was very easy to see who people where when they walked into your home. If they had rings and fancy robes then you knew they were rich, and the temptation was to treat them better. James is pointing out a way that favoritism had entered into people’s lives as a means of encouraging them to evaluate their attitudes and their actions and make some changes to align their heart with God. The change we are to make, James says, the life principle to live out is this: give VIP treatment to those more vulnerable than we are.
God has always had a heart for those who were vulnerable. In fact, James began his discussion on favoritism immediately after saying that the religion God accepts, wants, and looks for is where we care for the widow and orphans, or where we meet the needs of those others forget. Jesus set the example for us in this area again and again. While most were looking to get ahead and spend time with those who were well connected and wealthy, Jesus was looking in the other direction. Jesus looked to the least in society, those who were always last in line, and those who were lost, looked down on, or looked over by others. Jesus made children, lepers, tax collectors, and people with bad reputations his VIP’s, and this is how he calls us to live. Jesus said, the last shall be first and the first shall be last.
So the life principle is to give VIP treatment to those who are the most vulnerable, the most in need, or the most forgotten in life, and here are some life hacks, some practical steps to help us do this.
1. Learn Names. We need to take the time to learn people’s names. When God called people to follow him he didn’t say, “Hey you.” God called them by name. From the burning bush, God called out Moses’ name. In a dream, God called Samuel’s name. From a blinding light, Jesus called Saul by name, and in Isaiah 43:1 we see that God calls us all by name.
I heard a pastor share this week that for many months he has been going into the same Starbucks and has been waited on by the same barista. Every time he orders, the barista has to ask him his name. He thought, I’ve been coming here for months, ordering the same thing, and you can’t remember my name. But then he realized that he didn’t know the name of the barista – and his name was written on his name tag. We are more interested in people knowing our name than in getting to know their name, but learning people’s name is important. Learning people’s name let’s them know they are valued, cared for, and VIP’s.
2. Listen to Stories. Getting to know a person’s name is good, but that is really just the first step, the second step is to listen to their story. Can we take the time to hear the stories of those around us? How did people get to where they are in life? That can be how they have succeeded or how they have fallen. Many people who find themselves struggling, or in need, have powerful stories to share, but most of the time no one wants to listen. We seem to only care about success, fame, and future. We need to take the time to listen.
My Dad loves to get the life story of the person waiting on us at a restaurant. I have to say that sometimes I find this a bit irritating because the wait staff might not have time to answer all his questions about their life’s goals and ambitions. But then I was thinking this week that maybe someone taking the time to ask them about their life is the first time someone actually took the time to acknowledge them as a person and not just a servant. Maybe that recognition was just what they needed to get through the day.
If we want to hear people’s life stories all we need to do is ask. Most people love to talk about themselves, and share their history, as well as their hopes and dreams, so can we take the time to ask, and then be quiet enough to listen. Once we know someone’s story, what will we do with it?
3. Look for opportunities – for OTHERS to be blessed. Who can we invite to join us for a meal, or an activity, or an adventure? After we have heard someone else’s story, how can we be part of making their hopes and dreams come alive? Getting back to those who wait on us in restaurants, I have shared before that my grandmother had a motto that she had when it came to giving a tip. I have never felt bad for leaving too much, but I have often felt bad for leaving too little. I remember that when I go out to eat. I never want to regret leaving too little. I want to bless others.
And this leads us to the last life hack for treating others as a VIP,
4. Lend Possessions – but I need to be clear that I am using the word lend because it makes for a nice alliteration to help us remember these life hacks, but we need to lend without the thought of getting it back, in other words, we need to give away our possessions. And this needs to become second nature so that we simply give when we see a need, and bless someone when we are given the opportunity.
A few weeks ago I was in the Weis store and saw a woman whose family has taken in several foster children through the years. She had another infant in the shopping cart and we talked a few minutes about their new foster child, and how the other two were doing in their home. I admire people who are able to open their homes this way and I thought about how to be an encouragement. I was checking out in line and she came up behind me, we talked some more and I heard God say, pay for her groceries. Well, that is kind of awkward right? So I didn’t do it and walked out of the store.
As I was starting to make my way across the parking lot, I heard GOD say, go back and buy their groceries. So I put my bags in the car, walked in and had that awkward moment of saying, I am going to run my card through for your order. She said, you don’t need to do that, and I said, yes I do. It is the least I can do as you care for the children.
I got over the awkwardness and just did it because God says, lend what you have and don’t think about getting it back. God says, give and be a blessing. I’ll be honest, it isn’t always second nature for me and God sometimes has to tell me two or three times what I need to do. Even then sometimes I fail, but that day I was so glad I listened because in that moment I was blessed. Does God love me more because I did it, no – God can’t love me more than he already does. Did God love that I listened and obeyed – absolutely, and so did I, because that is the kind of faith I want, and that is kind of love I want to share and life I want to show the world.
If we will look around this week, God will bring someone into our life that He wants us to treat like a VIP. It may be someone no one else sees as important or worthy, it may be someone that no one else even sees, someone that no one else knows the name, but God does, and God wants us to see them, and God wants us to know their name, and listen to their story, and find ways to bless them. May we see that person this week, and may we take the opportunity we will be given and be a blessing to them.
Life Hacks – No Favoritism
Life Principle: Don’t show favoritism. Give VIP treatment to those more vulnerable than we are. (James 2:1-13)
1. Learn Names
• Learn the names of those you interact with on a regular basis.
• Keep a list of names that you can review to help jog your memory.
2. Listen to Stories
• Take time this week to listen to the life story of a friend, coworker, or neighbor.
• What story have you heard recently that you need to go back and get more connected, or respond in some way?
• How can you listen to the stories of those who are most vulnerable in our church and community?
3. Look for Opportunities
• Identify someone you can bless this week.
• Invite someone to join you in your mission and ministry in order to bless them.
4. Lend Possessions
• What can you share with others?
• What can you give to those who are most in need in our community?
• What loans might you need to forgive moving forward?