Topic(s): Christian living, Evangelism & Love
In the same way, faith by itself—that does nothing—is dead.
James 2:17, NCV
My daughter, Eliana, brought up an interesting thought as we read this passage of scripture together: “If you do ‘works’ but have no faith, or if you have ‘faith’ but do no good works—aren’t both of those like being half a Christian?”
At first blush, I semi-corrected her thinking from a theological standpoint: without faith you cannot be a Christian at all, not even a half-baked one. I explained the perceived contradictions between James and Paul, expounding upon the fact that they do not contradict each other at all (another topic for another day).
But as I reread this scripture later, I was flabbergasted by her wisdom. Her assertion is an accurate one—perhaps, too accurate and sad at the same time—in relation to churches: There are those that preach and practice the Great Commission, but neglect the Great Commandment. And, conversely, some churches are awesome at the Great Commandment, but have not preached the Great Commission in years.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV)
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40, NLT)
Many churches focus on doing one or the other well, or at very least, forget to acknowledge the other. The irony of the situation is that one will help you do the other, and do it well! Those who take notice and make provision for those in need are far more effective in reaching the lost with Gospel. They work hand-in-hand. Many churches, rightly so, focus on social justice issues. But is there a call for spiritual awakening in the midst of their pursuits? There are those churches who preach fantastic messages of hope, love and Jesus. But they turn right around and ignore the destitute living on the street, especially if it is someone of another color.
Is it TOO MUCH to do both? Is it TOO HARD to do both well? NOT according to James…
Forgive us, for we, at times, know not what we do…but at other times, we know exactly what we do. It is not too much to ask of me, or the church, to be good at both faith and works. Whether it is for our fellow brothers and sisters within the four walls of a building OR for those perceived as outsiders, what we “do for the least of these, we do for You.” Help me and help us to be wise and do good in our efforts to grow Your family, through spiritual, as well as physical, means.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.