As is usual with the holiday season, the requests via postal mail and email for contributions has greatly increased. We live in troubling times (I wonder if Christians down through the ages don’t always say that) and the need for helping our brothers and sisters is great. By brothers and sisters I am not only referring to fellow Christians, either. I think that the illustration that Jesus gives us in the Parable of the Good Samaritan should suffice, but in case it doesn’t, let’s take a look at what Jesus said and also at excerpts from the book of James.
it’s easy to get pious and argue religion. We can study our Bibles and have discourse back in forth with both like-minded and those who are not all day long, but if people are starving and in need of basic necessities and we stand idly by, then we have missed the mark when it comes to the “first and second greatest commandments.”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” -Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)
For the longest time I would attend church, pontificate on whatever topic of conversation I might be engaged in and then turn a blind eye to the suffering of those about me. How sad and disappointed I imagine that makes our Lord. When it comes right down to it, I don’t think what Bible translation you read or where you worship is all that important, certainly in comparison to your love for God and others. What you do with what you read and how you worship is what matters most.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. -James 2:14-17 (NIV)
Give of your time and resources when you can. My wife and I have discussed toning down the gift-giving to each other and focusing on those less fortunate this holiday season. Our primary gift to each other will be a gift outside of ourselves. In that way, the stocking that never gets filled (that of our Lord) will finally have something in it that pleases Him. It’s not an original idea of mine, to be sure. A friend a few years back mentioned that he and his wife started doing that.
Let’s stop quibbling and find the common ground that is Christ. Coming together as the one family in Jesus that we are, what a force for good in this world we can be. in that, we can find true religion and the saving faith that it implies.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. -James 1:22-27 (NIV)