Jms. 2:15-17 “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead,” (Jms. 2:15-17).
There are many who hang their hope of heaven on a childhood prayer or going forward in a church meeting. Those things do not give spiritual life; they do not save. The faith that God gives, the faith that saves, that is alive – that faith changes people. They become different, decreasingly self-centered, increasingly loving and caring about God and other people. Not perfect, frequently failing in fact. But if your life was not transformed after that childhood prayer, or that trip to the altar, then you have reason to question whether you possess genuine faith.
And for those who do possess genuine faith there is an additional challenge. What on earth are we thinking when we say “I’ll pray for you” and then neglect to do it? Or when we are made aware of the need for clothing or daily food and ALL we offer is “I’ll pray for you?”
Once again I am convicted by the demonstration of need on the street corners of my city. I want to help. I can’t fix everyone’s life but I can do something when God brings me face to face with naked need. I can engage that person in conversation, ask their name and find out whether they are hungry at that moment. I can ask what they would like to eat, turn around and bring back a meal to them. I can find out what brought them to this place of need and then pray specifically, now that I understand something of what they are experiencing. Our local Gospel Mission has little coupons for a free meal and an overnight stay, with their address printed on it. Along with whatever else I offer I usually give one of those when it seems the person might need it.
It’s taking me a long time to reach this point in my life because I’ve been so skeptical, thinking the needy person probably deserved their current condition. It was most likely payback for stupid decisions earlier in life. But the more I read Proverbs the more I understand that we are to care about and care for those in need of love, resources, supportive friendship, hospitality – because there are many who suffer need having done absolutely nothing wrong, nothing to bring it upon themselves.
We are not called to see through people. We are called to see people through. I am a rich person compared to many in need. I have something to share and God gives great joy to my heart when I break loose from the old thought patterns. I am not responsible for what they do with my gift. I am responsible to give.