Scripture: Isaiah 32-35, James 2
James 2:1 My brothers and sisters, as believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, you must never treat people in different ways according to their outward appearance.
James 2:14 My brothers and sisters, what good is it for people to say that they have faith if their actions do not prove it? Can that faith save them?
James 2 has two big ideas: don’t judge people based on outward appearance, and faith without actions is dead.
“You must never treat people in different ways according to their outward appearance.” James specifically applies this to the rich and poor, knowing that we tend to favor the rich and overlook the poor. I know that I like to be around successful people, and it’s easy for me to gravitate toward them and away from people who are more needy. James warns us against favoritism and “making judgments based on evil motives.”
Here is another way that following Jesus is counter-cultural and counter-intuitive. I must resist my own selfishness and the cult of celebrity. Instead, I must treat each person, rich or poor, famous or unknown, successful or struggling, with the same grace and love.
I have found that my judgments based on appearance are often incorrect. I quickly label someone in my mind, only to discover that they are much different, much better, much larger than the label I’ve assigned them.
John 7:24 Jesus said, “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”
“What good is it for people to say that they have faith if their actions do not prove it?” James goes on to bluntly say that faith without actions is dead. It is not faith at all. If you really believe, you act. You behave a certain way.
If I believe it is going to rain, I take an umbrella (or wear a hat and coat). If I believe the stock market is going to crash, I move my money! If I believe that Jesus is Lord, then I’ll follow.
If we say we believe in Jesus, but there is no action, no evidence, then James we say we don’t really believe, or that our “faith is dead.”
If you were on trial for being a believer in Jesus, is there enough evidence to convict you? Sadly, for many so-called Christians, there is not. They say they believe, but there is no action to back up their claim. “Can that faith save you?” James asks. I think it’s a rhetorical question and the answer is “no.” A dead faith can’t save you; only an active one. A dead faith is no faith at all.
Prayer: Lord, help me today to resist my stupid urge to judge people based on outward appearance, and to treat everyone as a child of God. And help me to live out my faith actively!