Just Do It!
Gracious Father, Your love is a gathering love: You have a wide-open heart. I rest in Your embrace.
Read James 2:14-26
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand and glove” (18, The Message). What God has joined, we must not separate!
A great deal of theological hot air and spilled ink has dominated the interpretation of these verses over the years. James would be outraged that his plea for hands-on godly living has distracted many into debates on the finer points of his doctrine of salvation.
Faced with our sense of impotence before a suffering world, debate can be a welcome diversion: how are we going to square James’s assertion that “faith without works is dead” with Paul’s teaching that no amount of works can save us, only faith? Is James a bit too Jewish, not Christian enough? No, not at all. Commentator Frances Gench explains it vividly: “Paul is dealing with obstetrics, with how new life begins; James, however, is dealing with pediatrics and geriatrics, with how Christian life grows and matures and ages.” True faith, for both Paul and James, shows itself practically. Faith is not sentimental piety, with a cheery greeting along with a blessing to ragged beggars, leaving God to clothe them (16). Neither is faith just intellectual assent to certain truths about God: in this sense, demons are believers (19).
What does faith look like? We are shown two vastly different individuals. Abraham towers over the Old Testament as a man of devotion and commitment. His willingness to sacrifice Isaac was the climax of decades of obedience and intimacy with God. Rahab, in contrast, was an immoral pagan Canaanite, who, in acknowledging Israel’s God as “God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Josh. 2:11), risked everything and in doing so furthered God’s purposes for his people. The actions of both came from faith, from wills submitted to God. And for James, faith is illustrated through caring for the poor. An emphasis on beliefs to the exclusion of time-consuming, costly self-giving is contrary to the Gospel. Faith is dead without action to bring it alive and work it out.
What is your practical response to the needs of the poor? Do your “good works” work by love (see Gal. 5:6b)? If not, why not?
Loving Lord, I am called to be a great lover and a great thinker. Help me to keep those two things in balance, so that my faith will not be a dead thing.
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