If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
The other day I was scrolling through YouTube looking for videos of the history of São Luís – the city where God has graciously allowed us to minister since 2011 – and I found this gem:
For the Portuguese-impaired, this is a campaign video from almost 30 years ago. The young (at that time) lady doing the talking went on to become the governor of our state for several terms. In the video she promises to make Maranhão an economic powerhouse on the same scale as the then-emerging nations of Asia.
Anybody familiar with the history of our state since then will affirm that this…did not happen. None of the projects ever made it off the drawing board. There was a profound disconnect between what she said she would do, and what she actually did.
This reminds me of a very common, and very scary, disconnect that exists in our culture today.
“Oh I know I’m saved, I went forward at an evangelistic service when I was seven.”
Those particular words were spoken to me by a co-worker back in my McDonald’s days as I was taking him home after a shift. I remember being amazed at the conviction with which he spoke, especially as I knew a little about his life, and knew that he had absolutely no desire to live in a manner that was pleasing to Christ.
I wish I could say that this was the last such conversation I had over the years, but sadly it is not. It seems to me that modern evangelicalism – on both sides of the equator – has created a tragic disconnect between the faith and its after-effects.
Now, to be fair, perhaps this is due to legalisms of the past that created too much of a connection. Previous generations may have emphasized the outward expressions of faith to the detriment of inward belief, creating a sort of “salvation by works” – which of course is a major problem.
But by swinging too far to the other side, modern evangelicals have created an equally tragic problem – tragic because many people sincerely believe they are saved when, clearly, biblically, they are not.
This is the point James is making here. If you speak the words, but don’t do the deeds, the words are useless. If you went forward in the service, but are not bearing the fruit, your gesture was meaningless.
God is no more interested in “political promises” than is the general electorate. For our faith to be considered genuine, it must make it off the drawing board.
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