Vending machines have come a long way since I was a kid. It used to be you slid in a couple of coins and pulled a lever and down would drop your snack or drink. Now there are lights, levers, cranes, codes, and chutes that make the purchase a production of its own. It's almost worth the price of the product to see the delivery! But one of the greatest advances in vending machine technology was the ability of the machine to accept bills rather than just coins. Especially as prices increased, it came as a relief not having to search the car seats for that extra quarter - now you just slide in a dollar bill or two and you're ready to snack. That is unless your dollar bill is rejected!
What a terrible feeling. You watch your dollar get sucked into the machine and then it spits it back at you. You check the little picture to make sure George's head is facing the right way and try again. If you're rejected again you do that little ritual that you saw some other guy do - you take the bill and rub it on a corner trying to take out any possible crease in the bill. You unfold any turned-up corners and hope you're bill is good enough. If you still find your bill rejected you're now ready to take the machine on - that's why they put those machines behind metal bars!! "What's the deal," you think. A dollar is a dollar, after all, whether it's fresh out of the mint or if it's been folded, wadded, washed and taped. Why should this machine accept a good looking bill but reject an old, worn out one? A clean, fresh bill is of no more value than a worn-out one.
As much as we don’t want to admit it, we are so much like those dastardly vending machines. We tend to be more accepting of people who have it all together and tend to be less-than-accepting of people who have been folded, wadded, washed, and taped. People who have been through the ringer often find themselves spit out by many of us who prefer to accept only the pristine.
The New Testament author James wrote to Christians and shuddered at the fact that followers of Christ could exhibit such preferential behavior. He imagines a scene were two people come into church, one wearing fine clothes and one wearing not-so-fine. The one in mint condition is escorted to the front of the assembly while the other is sent off to the cheap seats. He sums up his argument by saying, "My dear brothers and sisters, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, never think some people are more important than others."
This type of behavior is so contrary to Christians because it is so contrary to Christ. Dollar bills of all kinds who had been repeatedly spit out by others found themselves welcome and accepted by Christ. Jesus was able to recognize the inherent value of every human being as he looked beyond the scars and wear so visible and so despised by others. A human being is a human being, after all, whether they're fresh out of the mint or if they've been folded, wadded, washed, and taped. Jesus received us all!
He modeled it, he taught it, let's do it!