In that collection of writings known as the New Testament, there is a letter believed to have been addressed to the non-Palestinian Jews who had settled throughout the Greco-Roman world. The author is thought not to have been an Apostle but rather a third James who was related to Jesus and often referred to as "The Brother of the Lord." He was the leader of the Jewish Christian community in Jerusalem.
James' contemporaries believed that status and wealth were clear signs of God's favour and thus it was that the rich and influential were the icons of society whilst the poor and powerless were considered to be of little or no consequence.
Jesus met this aberration head on. "Blessed are the poor in spirit," He said, speaking of all, of whatever social rank, who recognized their complete dependence upon God. He praised humility which was considered, by many, to be a weakness and He called for generosity toward the poor which was widely held to be a dangerous threat to the good order of society.
James demanded no less from early Jewish converts. They had to stand up and be counted. Many did so but many others did not. (James 2:1-5)
Today, in some circles, it remains a given that circumstances such as inherited nobility and wealth, financial success, superior intellect, robust health, good looks and quick wittedness serve to identify the brightest and clearest images of the Divine.
If you believe this, and many do, the chances are that you will limit your interest, concern and focus to those whom you consider to be at least your equals …your admiration and subservience to those whom you consider to be your betters and your thinly veiled disdain for those you consider your inferiors.
Sadly such attitudes are deeply ingrained in humanity. I think that it relates to our need for security, the true source of which is not to be found in hierarchical social alignments and bondings but rather in our common unity in Christ.
The following is a brief quote from an account of The Plague written shortly after it had ravaged Europe in the 14th century. "The greatest number of those who died consisted of women and children and the lowest and poorest sort of people... FORTUNATELY not many of wealth or quality or of much conversation."
Contrast this attitude with that of the health care workers in Toronto toward the victims of S.A.R.S.... with that of Mother Teresa toward the street people in the slums of India, but above all, contrast it with the attitude of Jesus toward you and toward me.