14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? 17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
The first kinds of works that James points to that reveal evidence of true faith are works that show:
- Compassion for the crown of God’s creation (14-17)
Now, when I say compassion for the crown of God’s creation, I’m not talking about global warming and saving the whales. Because while whales are part of God’s creation, they are not the crown of His creation. Psalm 8 and Ephesians 2:10 remind us that God’s masterpiece is man, as James says people are God’s prized possession. Sadly today we are prizing creation over the crown of His creation, as a result we are worshiping creation instead of the Creator. Now the way that verse 15 is worded in the original Greek, makes it clear that James is making reference to all people not just Christians. He is not just telling us to take care of the needs in the church but to compassionately care for all people, regardless of their race or religion. This means feeding the hungry instead of finding fault with humanity. Today the church has become so focused on the failures that we have forgotten to be the hands and feet. We have become failure focused instead of service focused. As a result we are adept at criticizing and inept at caring. But real faith cares from a heart of compassion, it’s faith that follows in the footsteps of Jesus who spent most of His time caring for the hurting masses of humanity. Real faith is focused on feeding the hungry not humiliating the hurting with calloused and uncaring words. What good does it do to recognize the need but not respond? To see those who are cold and hungry and say stay warm, eat well and have a good day but not to love them like the Lord? Faith that talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk is worthless because it does no good to tell someone about your faith if they can’t see it. That’s the kind of faith that the Pharisee in the parable of the Good Samaritan had, he saw the man in need and crossed over to the other side so he wouldn’t have to stop and help the hurting. Galatians 5:6 – “For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.” We are called to be moved by love not motivated by legalism. This is a faith that says, “I love you because Jesus first loved me.” That lends a helping hand because Jesus helped you in your hour of need. James objected to a “faith” filled with pious words but void of practice. Real faith is seen in practices not principles. A conviction that refuses to obey the commands of Christ is not just cold its dead. It’s an intellectual belief not faith. There is a great story of the tightrope walker, Blondin who would cross over the Niagara Falls walking on a tightrope. One day he turned to his large audience and asked them, “How many believe I can walk across this tightrope over the Falls pushing a wheelbarrow?” People cheered loudly; they were sure the great Blondin could do it. Then he asked, “How many believe I can push a wheelbarrow across the tightrope with a man sitting in it?” Again, there was a loud response. Blondin then pointed to the Prince of Wales and said, “Okay, then get into the wheelbarrow.” But the man refused. There is a big difference between intellectual belief and faith. Between the faith we SAY we have, and the action faith we really have. Faith and works go together like inhaling and exhaling as Billy Graham said, “Faith is taking the Gospel in, works is taking the Gospel out.” Real belief involves faith keeping company with action. Because if you don’t live it, you don’t really believe it. Matthew 9:36 reminds us that when Jesus “saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus saw the crowds and had compassion, but what about us do we display compassion or contempt? When we see people in need do, we think of ways to help or do we wander what they did to get in that situation and find reason why we can’t? Are you cultivating compassion or contempt? This goes back to how you view people, either as a priced possession or a pain and a problem. Why was it that when Jesus walked the earth the helpless flocked to him, but today they seem to shy away from His followers? What if the church stopped trying to look cool and started loving like Christ? Part of this involves Christians coming together corporately and caring for the hurting. But it also involves individual Christians taking the time to touch the lives of others. Why don’t we do that because we haven’t orientated ourselves to service. How many of us miss opportunities because not only are we not intentionally looking for them, but because we haven’t prepared ourselves to participate. One of the things the Lord impressed on my heart is to be prepared so that when needs arises I wasn’t taken by surprise. So I made what I called a Blessing jar, just an ordinary jar with the verse Proverbs 14:31 “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Into this jar I put a portion of money every month so that I am always prepared to participate and meet the needs of those God calls me to. Compassion is more than just giving your money its giving yourself. If your faith doesn’t show compassion, it just might be dead.