Jesus challenged people, “Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46) Jesus expected them and expects us to act on his teaching and to do what he says. Jesus never thought his disciples would just sit around and listen, he sent them out to do his Father’s will. This is faith with arms and legs, with momentum and strength, mucking in, taking part and doing what needs to be done. Faith is not piety reserved for an hour or so on Sunday mornings, it is a living faith, a weekday faith, a faith expressed in what we say and do.
Earlier in his letter James said the true religion which God accepts is to look after orphans and widows in their distress. Then he shone a spotlight on their oppression of the poor while showing favouritism to the rich. Here he is pointing to their tendency to withhold reasonable help from people in need. He gives a typical example, Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food, (James 2:15). The bible teaches that food and clothing are the basic necessities of life. James is not asking for the poor to be provided with luxuries, but with basic necessities. Empty blessings and pious platitudes were of no practical help to them “If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:16) James doesn’t pussy foot around, he directly blasts their insincere piety out of the water. James understood the bible taught if we are able we should do good without delay (Proverbs 3.27-28). And his contemporary Paul wrote when the opportunity arises we should do good for all people (Gal 6.9-10) This is intensely practical. Sadly, I think we often have a more developed theology of why we shouldn’t give to the poor than why we should give to them. I gave last week / I don’t know if they will use this wisely / Perhaps they will spend it on booze or drugs /Perhaps my gift will have unintended consequences.
James calls his readers to account and lays down a challenge, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” (James 2:18). He challenged them to stump up with evidence of faith without deeds knowing full well they had none, because faith without works is dead. Again, James presses this home saying, “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” (James 2:24) As we heard at the start of this message, our lives are like a locomotive running on the twin tracks of faith and action. Remove one of the tracks and the train derails. Let us determine with God’s help to live with consistency and alignment between what we believe and what we do.
- What was wrong with simply wishing people well? James 2:16
- Why did James point out even demons believe in God?
- Do you find it easier to love God with your mind or your strength?
- Do you tend more towards faith or works? How could you bring them into closer alignment in your life?
- Read Prov 3.27-28. Why do you think people sometimes hold back or delay doing good?
- Why do you think James used Abraham and Rahab as examples?
- Where in church ministries is it easiest to see faith in action?
Rev John Malcolm