Tuesday, March 27, 2012

i'm sure those people over there can help

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. - James 2:14-17
I have heard this verse taught many times. We're supposed to take care of the poor, those who are unable to take care of themselves, etc. It's taken by the left to mean that we're supposed to steal from people to give their money to other people. It's taken by more conservative members of the Christian community to mean we're supposed to send aid to other countries, to places where people are starving and, maybe--in a pinch--to that homeless shelter down the street. In whatever way this idea manifests itself, there's always one thing that is central to it: we are, in some way, supposed to care for the less fortunate members of our own community.

It is odd, however, that the execution of this idea doesn't seem to extend to those people that are truly our brothers and sisters... that is, those people who sit next to us in the church pew, drift their way through our buildings, and then return to their homes. Many times, we're none the wiser about what our fellow Christians are going through. And, if we are, there's this sort of conversation:
"Sally and her husband are going through some real trouble. Joe's gonna have to have some surgery. They really need prayer."
"They have those three kids, don't they? And a baby on the way?""Yeah. But I heard that there's a new government program; if they apply for it, they can get medical assistance, which should help them feed those kids."
"I'll pray they'll be able to get into that program, then. It would be a shame if they had to sell their house or ended up being homeless!"
I have seriously heard exchanges almost exactly like this one many times in churches, between members of a Christian community. There seems to be this idea in America that, if we fall on hard times, the government will take care of us. After all, what are we paying taxes for? Surely the government can help out!

And so, to all intents and purposes, we look at these brothers and sisters of ours and say, "hey, you know--I heard you were on hard times. I'm going to pray for you. Go on home now, and you stay warm and fed, alright?" And then we mosey on home to our Sunday afternoon dinners and our comfortable lives where, while there might be occasional hiccups in the smooth passage, we don't have to worry about breakfast tomorrow morning.

But aren't we sort of missing the point? Aren't we completely ignoring what James told us to do? Yes, there are many great charity programs that are run by churches. They feed a lot of people, both in America and out. Money is being constantly sent overseas to buy cornmeal, rice, and even meat for small schools and churches in African and Asian countries. Some of those people, yes, are our brothers and sisters in Christ. But we're ignoring the problems right under our noses. We're so busy with feeling spiritual--setting our Facebook status to a really great Bible verse, trying to raise awareness for our newest pet cause in Africa, campaigning to make abortion illegal--that we forget that without our faith manifesting itself into the physical realm, it means absolutely nothing.

There's a saying I once heard. I don't know who originally said it. It's probably as old as Christianity itself. But it's simply this: If you can't be a missionary at home first, you're not going to be an effective missionary elsewhere.

Until you start taking care of things close to home, you can't be an effective crusader for women's rights in Afghanistan. Until you are willing to help out a family in need that goes to your church, you can't be an effective volunteer at a food bank. Until you are actively living out the things you say you believe, it doesn't count for anything. God doesn't care about rhetoric; he cares about action.

Can it be difficult, thinking about making sacrifices for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? Of course. Nobody ever said it would be easy. I'm sure that the people who were reading James' letter thought he was crazy. "What? He's saying we should all chip in like those crazy Christians in Antioch and have everything common and help each other? What about the poor people around us? What about them? Surely they can go find help elsewhere--they have families, support systems!"

But they didn't, and they don't. The Church was designed to be a support system. When the author of Acts talked about how the early Christians had "all things common", that's what he meant. He meant that they all chipped in when something was needed. But we've become so focused on our own needs, our wants, the things that are immediately in front of us, that all we can say to Christians who need help is, "Well, that sucks. I'm pretty sure the government runs a fund for losers like you...good luck. Go eat and keep your house warm this winter."
If a brother or sister...
- Kyla Denae

8 comments:

Joy ~ Doodlebug ~ said...

Very well written and this will definately give me something to think about and more importantly apply to my life--don't doubt that!

I love that saying about being a missionary at home. I would like to do mission work in China, and I think I tend to sort of look over the issues in America.

Thanks for posting this, Kyla!
God bless you!
Joy :D

Olivia said...

Much of this--almost word-for-word in places--has been running through my mind lately. Thanks for posting.

Kyla Denae said...

Thanks Joy. I'm definitely not saying that overseas missions aren't important--I myself want to be an overseas missionary. But we also shouldn't problems right in front of us slip away, either. My policy is to deal with the problem I see in front of me first, always.

Thanks Olivia. :3

Morgan-Britney said...

Very, VERY true. Unfortunately, we live in America, one of the richest country on earth. Even now, some man or woman in India could be reading your post and laughing, thinking: "That rich, spoiled child in America has NO IDEA."

I've often lamented the fact I was born here, in the USA, where my life was made for me, where I've never gone hungry. I was asking the Lord this exact question a year or so ago. "WHY was I born here? It is nearly impossible for a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle. YOU said that. So why am I here?"
He told me: "I put you here to BLESS OTHERS. Not so you would be rich and happy, and have a roof over your head, but so you can give to others who are dying in the dust. I bless you because I love you, now share my love and give accordingly."

That blew me away. Wow. I'm not here for ME, but for OTHERS. some thing to ponder, then live by for sure.

Tragedy101 said...

?

What about giving in secret? How do you know that these things that people say are not just ways of preventing their left hand from knowing what their right hand did?

Would you mind reading James once through? It takes about 15 minutes. Paying special attention to what James writes concerning what "we say" and the organ of the body we say it with.

I think writing is the same principle. I have a serious issue in this area of my life: I am quick to speak, quick to wrath, and slow to listen, as you know.

And then let us rejoice, together, against judgement.

Kyla Denae said...

That could be, Tragedy. But at the same time, a few of the specific instances that prompted this post (that have occurred in my own life), are instances where I know the people concerned very well. And I know that they're not that way--that they really do think the government should be the one helping these people. And it annoys me. Hence this post. :P

I get the feeling I struck a nerve, so know this: if you are one of those people who give to others without letting them know it was you, this wasn't directed at you. Nor is it directed at people who do things like that. Those people are doing what James said. And that was the whole point. I'm not saying you have to stand up in assembly and shout to the whole congregation that you gave to so-and-so. That would pretty much defeat the whole purpose of much of what Jesus said about not letting your giving be before men. But at the same time, we're not supposed to immediately point people to the government as a first resort. It's not the government's job to take care of our siblings in Christ; it's our's.

Tragedy101 said...

You did hit a nerve, but the nerve you hit was the one where I tell others what they ought to do. I do. And I should not.

James 4.17 is a verse for me. It is true not only of boasting, but of anything that I know is good to do.

I agree with the essence of your post. I have written such posts and made such comments, myself. The problem comes with James 4.1 and 11. I am not a judge. I am a law doer.

I am not, yet, the man of James 3.2; nor, in my own strength, will I ever be.

Have you ever correlated James 1.5 with James 3.17? I have read James many times; but someone else, just recently, had to point out the correlation. I did not see it.

I am not a man of peace. I like to argue and fight. That is an earthly, sensual, and demonic wisdom according to James 3.15.

There is strife in my heart. And from that strife comes this sort of post and comment, when I write or say it. I don't have this issue: It is just other people around me.

God convicts me, you, and everyone else. I can tell you what I see as being sin, but that will not convict you. God convicts you.

I can tell you how God has overcome my sin in my life, but you may not be convicted that what I believe to be wrong is wrong. And the reverse is also true.

Kyla Denae said...

That is true, Tragedy. But at the same time, my blog is rather like my journal of sorts. I air my opinion, and sometimes that opinion may stomp on toes. That's the nature of life. I do try to keep my speech civil and make sure that my posts don't target one person and "speak the truth in love". That's not to say I always succeed, because I know I don't. But still. There are some issues that need to be pointed out and dealt with. If nobody ever talked about things the world was doing wrong, we'd still be stuck under some pretty bad dictatorships.