Monday, November 9, 2015

Faith and Poverty

So, today I had a rushed time studying my Bible. I just picked James 2 to skim through and call it done, to check my little box that said I had spent time in God's word today.

Little did I know God would stop me with a verse that I'm still sitting, struggling over, uncertain in myself. And it's such a simple verse.
"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?" - James 2:14-16
This passage lies right between two already challenging passages in James. Right before it is his statement on not showing preference in treatment of those in the church or even outside of it. Immediately following it is a passage discussing how deeds are the measure by which one's faith is proven, or, more classically, "Faith without works is dead."

Where impartiality meets faith-induced work, we see the above passage.

Earlier today, I tucked a small jab at the American church over its uproar about the design change of Starbucks' cups when there are such greater needs and far better ways in which to make Christ known in the world.

That being said, I cannot let this passage go so easily, or, rather, God won't let it let go of me.

You see, I'm beginning to think God is doing something in me. He works in interesting ways, prodding us towards aspects of faith that challenge our comfortability. When we get to a point at which we say, "God, I think I get this faith and works thing. I'm doing a pretty good job of it," He is quick to point out areas in which we could use a little more stepping out in faith.

During these last couple months, in my time studying the Bible and listening to my various pastors, God has confronted me with two large areas in which my faith is not being lived out.

  1. How am I working for the benefit of the poor and needy?
  2. How am I evangelising to my peers and passers-by?
You see, I do a lot of talk, trying to mobilise others to share the Gospel or to consider those in greater need than they, maybe even encouraging them to change the manner by which they see the world, but there's a stark lack of practicing what I'm preaching.
"You say you believe in God; that is good. Even the demons believe - and they shudder" - James 2:19, paraphrase
This is God's challenge to me right now. I say I have faith and God is showing me how the faith of believers led them to actions of generosity, of benevolence, selflessness, and charity. God has set the pieces in motion and He has me in check.

It's my choice. I can walk away and God will wait, patiently. My faith will stay where it is, stunted, maybe even stagnant, as I join the rest of the world in worshipping themselves and giving lip service to God. That's the easy thing, the comfortable thing. It asks nothing of me.

God, well, he's asking. To act would involve me giving of my time - something I don't have a lot of, but I'm usually willing to chip in a couple of hours for a good cause. To act would involve trusting God for His plan - something I prefer to devise myself, of my own knowledge and understanding. To act would involve something of my money - something I also don't have a lot of, but it pays for all of my first world comforts, my food, my internet, my school.

God is telling me to shut up and put my money where my mouth is and I'm just praying and asking for the courage.

It's scary stepping out in faith. I can't think of a time in which I've ever been so torn or conflicted. I can see the way that is right, but I don't want to be uncomfortable.
"So, whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is a sin" - James 4:17
"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." - Matthew 7:13-14
 Sometimes, it's easy to forget we're not promised a comfortable life. Sure, we remember it when explaining why Christians in other countries are being killed, but we seem to forget it when God asks something tough of us.

As for me, tonight, I'll be talking to my wife, coming to one accord over what we can and should do.