“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead…”
– James 2:17
In the conclusion of the series concerning breaking the chains, we want to focus on the three concrete principles the Apostle James suggested can be implemented in one’s life to break the chain of a self-serving spirit.
1. Compassion. For the believer a new life in Christ Jesus is evidenced by their service to others. That service is shown in one’s compassion for God’s creation. When I say compassion for God’s creation, I’m not talking about global warming; I’m talking about that part of God’s creation James points out in his illustration in James 2:15-16….those who are created in the image and the likeness of God! God’s crowning creation—people. Not just Christian brothers and sisters but all people. James is saying that taking care of the needs of people in the church is evidence of true faith. But that’s only part of it. True Christians are to show compassion to all people. James says if your faith does not show such compassion, it just might be dead. Faith without work is dead! To break the chain of selfishness we must get out of self and into another. This is what compassion is – compassion is to be empathetic and not merely sympathetic, to put ourselves in the position of another. Sympathy is feeling sorry for another, but empathy is putting yourself in the place of another. In verses 15-16, James accused the people of bias against the poor, the widow, and the orphan which is, at its core, a social justice issue. If we are going to break the chain of selfishness we must learn compassion.
2. Hope. (See James 2:20-24). James indicated believers are to show hope in God’s promises in that God will do what God says He will do. What is James saying here? One has to only read Hebrews 11, which gives an insight into how Abraham rendered faithful service to God. Abraham believed that through Isaac God was going to raise up a nation because God has promised that through Isaac shall thy seed be called. Abraham’s very offering up of Isaac was proof of his strong belief in the word of God. Abraham believed that God would, if necessary, raise Isaac from the dead to keep His promise. And so Abraham’s faith was in keeping or his works were in keeping with his faith. Abraham believed God. His service was based in his hope of the promises God had made. Hope takes our eyes off of self and focuses them on the Lord and what God is doing in our life and in the world.
3. Service. (See James 2:25-26). Finally, James goes back to another Old Testament example which is not surprising considering James’ congregation was made up of Jewish Christians. But James used the example of Rehab. Back in Joshua, Joshua knew as soon as Israel crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, they were going to have to conquer Jericho. So Joshua sent spies to check the place out. They came across Rehab who hid them on the roof of her house. In Joshua 2:11 she gives her profession of faith. She said, “When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” Rehab’s works showed her faith by her service to God’s people. Her immediate service to the Israelite spies—was risky business. Serving others is risky business because it calls us out of our comfort zones, of class, race, and gender for eternal service to the lineage of Christ. What risk are you willing to take to draw nearer to God? Do you risk anything or sacrifice anything to serve God’s people?
Beloved, I want to challenge us to step out of our comfort zones and serve another. This week be intentional about a RANDOM ACT OF KINDNESS. Walk up to a stranger and let your life be a blessing to a stranger unlike yourself. Make it a goal this week to serve someone you don’t know; go to a women’s shelter and volunteer some of your time. Go to a men’s shelter and volunteer your time. Share your God-given gifts and talents with someone.
Next Month: Ministering to Youth and Young Adults
The writer does not assume responsibility in any way for readers’ efforts to apply or utilize information or recommendations made in these articles, as they may not be necessarily appropriate for every situation to which they may refer. Rather, the objective is strictly informative and educational. If you would like to contact Rev. Lester, write to her c/o P.O. Box 121, Brookfield, WI. 53008.