JAMES HAS GREAT ONE-LINERS.
“A body that doesn’t breathe is a corpse. Faith that doesn’t get up and go and do good things is just as dead” (James 2:26 Casual English Bible).
“What we do expresses our faith, it completes it” (James 2:22 Casual English Bible).
I’m working on paraphrasing the book of James for the Casual English Bible. I just finished chapter two, and so far the writer feels like one of the sages who wrote Proverbs—but a sage with an attitude. Somebody somewhere tipped him over.
“You empty-headed person, how about I teach you something? I’ll prove to you that the faith of a person is useless if the person doesn’t do anything to help others” (James 2:20 Casual English Bible).
James would not be fond of the kind of Christians I worshiped with for part of my life. He would call them empty headed, and possibly empty hearted. Some of those churches were spiritual clubs, a little like a country club, but without the money, the golf, and the perfectly crisp bacon on a BLT.
We churchers would get up on Sunday and go to Sunday school and then to the morning worship services. We came back on Sunday evening for another sermon with lots of music.
We often went back on Wednesday evening for a short sermon, a lot of personal testimonies, and more music than on a Sunday morning. Our main contact with the community was in our attempts to get them to come to church.
I don’t remember helping the community in any practical ways. We helped each other within the church. But outside the church, not so much.
We were the kind of people who did not expect the world to get better until Jesus came back. So we went about our life believing in God and going to church. But we didn’t do much to make the world a better place.
As I think about it now, that seems like a pretty hopeless faith. It’s as though we believed in God, and that he could do great things. But we didn’t believe that with God’s Spirit in us, we could do great things, too.
I know now that we can, in fact, do great things individually and through the church.
For example, my local church has adopted one school in town that has the highest rate of families living in poverty. We supply the kids with backpacks loaded with weekend food and snacks that they can take home. It’s so they’ll have something to eat. That’s just one of many things we do for the kids in that school.
I believe what I believed years ago: it’s important to worship with a church community and to spend time privately reflecting on my faith.
But I’ve also come to believe that I need to take my faith wherever I go.
People need to see it.
People need to find hope in it.
People need to know that we don’t have to sit around and wait for Jesus to turn this world around. We have the Spirit of Jesus in us. And I don’t believe Jesus is lazy.