“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?” James 2:14 (NIV)
When Willie was in high school, he sauntered into one of his classes on a normal Monday morning at West Monroe High School and took his seat. One of his classmates approached him and said, “Hey, I visited your church yesterday and saw you there. I didn’t know you were a Christian.” When telling the story later, Willie said that encounter impacted him immensely and he couldn’t get that statement out of his mind. It made him examine his actions at school and question himself on what kind of impact he was making on the people around him. He didn’t have a foul mouth. He didn’t even drink or party with his friends. But one thing was certain to him: his life wasn’t showing others that Jesus was his Lord.
It wasn’t long after that encounter that Willie became very vocal with the rest of us teens at church. Willie shared that story and asked us if people could say the same thing about each of us. He asked us, “Would people at your school be surprised to know you were a Christian?”
That story made an impact on me then, and through the years I have thought about that many times. I have led a pretty trouble-free life when it comes to sin and bad choices that I’ve made. I have never been drunk, never even thought about trying any kind of illegal drug and have known only one man since my wedding night over 25 years ago. However, I am guilty at times of letting other things beside God lead my life. Even though I have never left God, I have been soothed by the devil into thinking that my life is just fine, that I don’t have to think about other people’s needs, that I have my own busy lifestyle to keep up with that involves a husband and three kids—how could I possibly take on helping other people?
James goes on in Chapter 2:15, “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.”
If you attend a church, think about the last time you were there. There were probably quite a few statements like,
“Hey, how are you?”
“Oh, I’m fine. How are you?”
“Good to see you today. Your kids look so cute!”
“Thanks! So do yours.”
“Good to see you.”
“You too! See you later.”
Sound familiar? What you probably don’t encounter is the conversation that involves how that family just had to move their elderly father in with them and doesn’t know how they are going to afford it. You most likely won’t hear how another family’s husband was just diagnosed with a terminal disease that won’t be fully covered by insurance and how they have no idea how they are going to pay for it. You definitely won’t hear how two people who have been married for 15 years is on the verge of break-up because one of them has been having an affair for over a year. You probably won’t even hear how a couple has spent themselves into so much debt because they are chasing after everything this world seems to offer them, everything but peace in Jesus. No, you won’t hear any of that between Bible Class and Worship Service. But those things are there. Those hardship and sin-ridden lifestyles are right there on Sunday mornings. But what can we do about it? I’ve learned to pray for opportunities. Pray that God will reveal to me someone who needs my help.
In the past, when I had a little extra money, I have called my church office and asked if there was anyone who could use some extra help. There always is. What a blessing an anonymous $20 can be to help a family buy a new doll for their daughter for Christmas morning. Around the holidays, when my boys were younger, we would talk about how God has blessed us and that we need to pass that blessing onto someone else who may be hurting. They would help decide who that family was. Together we would fill a basket according to that family’s needs. The first one we ever did was for a family who had lost their husband and father to Lou Gehrig’s disease. The oldest daughter was in Reed’s class in first grade at school, and he wanted to do something for them to make them feel better. We filled a basket with a fun family DVD, a few bottled drinks, some packages of microwave popcorn and some candy. Reed said, “I mean, who doesn’t like a movie night?!” Another year we filled a basket full of newborn baby needs like diapers, wipes, a nightgown and a few bottles of formula and gave it to a single mother who was trying to get her life right. Not only did these things speak to the immediate needs in those people’s lives, it also spoke to my own children in teaching them to think about other people’s real life circumstances.
Just yesterday, Reed called me from college and told me about a young adult girl who lives in that town and struggles with a health issue that will most likely never be resolved. He said, “Mom, can we do something for her? She is such a nice girl and is always doing things for people, but she doesn’t have any money. I just want to do something special for her.” Absolutely! We talked about what to do and came up with a plan. Knowing that my kids are in tune to the needs of other people makes me a proud mama. There are so many people around us that need help. We just have to open our eyes and our hearts to them.
In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus talks about separating the sheep to his right and the goats to his left. He talks about the difference in the two groups as being those who helped others in need and those who did not. Verses 37-40 say, “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me’.”
It’s not a hard concept, but with our busy lives and mostly self-centered lifestyles, it can be tough to accomplish. I heard a statement recently that goes like this: If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy. That statement has really hit me hard recently.
Will you join me in taking on the challenge of helping someone this week? Will you pray that God gives you an opportunity? Will you pray that, when given that opportunity, you won’t turn your back with an excuse that you’re just too busy and don’t have time?
These small efforts of unselfishness will scream, “I am a Christian!” far louder than your vocal chords ever could. Have a great week!