Daily D – James 2:17
So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. JAMES 2:17 (NLT)
Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?
A college student asked, “Don’t you think the problem with our churches is that we are sitting on the premises rather than standing on the promises?”
This pithy statement remains etched upon a page in my mind used to gather folk wisdom and witticisms. As far as I can recall, I have never uttered the phrase in a sermon or other speech. However, if I ever write a novel with a preacher in it, . . .
It is good to reduce complex truths into simple sayings. Ben Franklin enjoyed picking up and printing words of wisdom like, “A stitch in time saves nine.” Portable truth is powerful.
As always, there is a caution flag to wave here. We must avoid reductionism beyond its proper boundaries in our search for simplicity. How do we know when we are approaching such a danger zone? It usually begins when someone says, “All you’ve got to do is . . .” For example,
* All you’ve got to do is pray a prayer
* All you’ve got to do is give your money
* All you’ve got to do is say, “I forgive you”
* All you’ve got to do is live by the rules
Each of these statements is partly true. None of them are the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
There are people who have prayed prayers and were promised heaven who may well miss it. I can intone the words of commitment from another religion as I read them on the page of a textbook, but they do not snatch me out of Jesus’ hands (John 10:28). I am only speaking words, not shifting allegiance. Such is the problem of praying a prayer without full devotion.
There are people who give money to be recognized rather than to do the most good. There are people who say, “I forgive you,” while waiting for an opportunity to get even. There are those who legalistically follow the rules but miss the intent and meaning of those very rules. Jesus encountered people like that everywhere he went.
Instead of reductionism, again James points us toward true transformation. God-talk by those who are truly transformed leads to God-acts. James gives us some God-acts in this chapter. Truly transformed people
* eliminate prejudicial attitudes and behavior
* treat everyone as someone special
* are nice to everybody
* live in freedom and help others do the same
* meet needs when the need is present
More than a say-so faith, we are to have a show-so faith. If we say we believe, it should be obvious to others. It is ever more noticeable the more we walk through our days seeing as Jesus sees and serving as Jesus serves. There is a simple saying in there to help us stay focused.
I will see what Jesus sees and serve as he serves.
Our Father, empower me to live what I say I believe without pretense or faithlessness. Give me eyes to see as you see. Give me the resources I need for those I will serve today. Deliver me from God-talk divorced from God-acts. Amen.
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Jonah 4:2, 3 So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”
Joel 2:12, 13 That is why the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish.”
Hosea 14:8, 9 “O Israel, stay away from idols! I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you. I am like a tree that is always green; all your fruit comes from me.” Let those who are wise understand these things. Let those with discernment listen carefully. The paths of the Lord are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them. But in those paths sinners stumble and fall.”