Faith and Works

James, the half brother of Jesus, was the pastor of the church in Jerusalem and wrote the New Testament epistle, James.  James 1,2 is our text for today.   James was pragmatic.  He is famously quoted for writing, “Faith without works is dead. (2:26)” We might say today, “Put your hands where your mouth is.”  Our faith is evident and grows as we live out our beliefs.  He rejected favoritism because of wealth.  He rejected subtle evils like gossip.  He encouraged his people to remember that God controls our days.  Our lives will not be evaluated by our brilliant sermons (most of us are not preachers!) but by simple deeds like helping widows and orphans.  Our lives are living testimonies.

         James opens his letter by encouraging early Christians to “count it all joy when you encounter trials.”  Christians were persecuted and killed for their faith.  That is not a happy experience for all involved and for families deeply impacted by the terror.  Perhaps we might say, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”  Hard times clarify our values, involve community, and make us realize how short life is.  In truth, though, our problems shift our focus onto ourselves and we are tempted to think we are the only person struggling, in fact, all people have trials.  No one lives happy ever after, only in children’s stories.  James assures his readers that God is always willing to give wisdom to those who seek it but they must not doubt.  They are not abandoned in their hour of need.  That is comforting.

         The tension between faith and works is always present.  Our government is debating how much to spend on the Reconciliation Bill. Do we raise the debt ceiling?  How do we live in community and responsibly with all the problems impacting our lives today?  I love the reminder, James 1:16,17, “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  God, not government, gives good gifts, not temptations.  God’s love does not change like shadows.  He is light.  Perhaps you can think of three blessings God has given you, that give you hope for the light at the end of the tunnel.  Blessings as you face trials.

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