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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2 Chronicles 35:25 Jeremiah composed laments for Josiah, and to this day all the male and female singers commemorate Josiah in the laments. These became a tradition in Israel and are written in the Laments. (NIV)
2 Chronicles 33:15, 16 He got rid of the foreign gods and removed the image from the temple of the Lord, as well as all the altars he had built on the temple hill and in Jerusalem; and he threw them out of the city. Then he restored the altar of the Lord and sacrificed fellowship offerings and thank offerings on it, and told Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel.
Matthew 3:8 “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”
2 Kings 20:2, 3 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
Isaiah 65:24 “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.”