Isaiah 35:4-7a and Psalm 146 AND
James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17
Thoughts on The Word:
My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favouritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in,and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Have a seat here, please’, while to the one who is poor you say, ‘Stand there’, or, ‘Sit at my feet’,have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?But you have dishonoured the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court?Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?
You do well if you really fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.For the one who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’, also said, ‘You shall not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.For judgement will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgement.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you?If a brother
or sister is naked and lacks daily food,and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
This week I want us to look at the passage of scripture from James. It is one of my favourite pieces of scripture!
James begins by making clear to us that baseless discrimination is not acceptable for followers of Jesus. We are not to make judgements about a person based on their outward appearance. You see the people of James' time were much like the people today! They were judgemental, and treated those in society who were in greatest need with disdain. Those who had power and influence - i.e. wealth - however were worthy of the highest respect and honour! Now James wants to make clear a concept that is as radical today as it was then - all are equal before God! It doesn't matter how much money you have, or what your clothes look like. It doesn't matter if you can put $1000 in the plate at church or a penny, and it doesn't matter if you are influential and respected or are disdained by society and pitied. In the Kingdom of God all are equal, and for us to pass judgement against another believer because of their social status (or any other baseless form of discrimination) is a grave sin.
What James calls us to do then is to be gracious and show mercy - i.e. to follow the example given to us by the one we claim as our Lord! We have been saved by the grace and mercy of God, and nothing more! How dare we then pass judgement on our brothers and sisters, when we are in receipt of such grace! James calls us to live a life after the example of Christ!
What James wants us to understand is that our faith is not just a matter of intellectual assent to the reality of Jesus. It is not just enough to say that we believe, and then not act out that faith. No, for James faith is a verb - it is an activity - not just an understanding or acceptance.
Now many over the past two thousand years have tried to argue that this portion of scripture indicates that our works contribute to our salvation, that we are not saved by faith alone, but by faith and works or even siply by works alone! Howver that is not what James is saying. The message that we are to get from this is that genuine faith in Jesus is an active and living faith - it is not a one time event of accepting Jesus as our Lord and saviour and then sitting back and relaxing! Jesus calls us to follow him, and James is trying to make it clear that this means active participation in the Kingdom.
Is your faith an active and living faith?
I pray that you are richly blessed this week!