Friday, 15 October 2010
Believe What They Do. James 2:14-26
Words are cheap. Actions costly.
Whenever people make claims–marketing claims, job interview claims, friendship claims–experience teaches us to believe their actions, not their words.
That’s the approach James takes when it comes to faith claims. Believe what they do, not what they say.
An Ear Splitting Claim
My husband and I had a chance to hear such a claim. We had just moved to our first home and given birth to our first child. Concerned for our safety while he was at work, my husband checked into alarm systems. Cheap alarm systems mind you.
One product was priced far below the rest. It consisted of placing monitors on all the windows and doors which would register an intruder if they were opened, broken, or even fiddled with. The salesman demonstrated the system, which was hooked to spotlights and a 120 decibel siren. It was simple and effective, he promised, and came with a money back guarantee.
A few nights later we were deep into the nightly coma of parental exhaustion when the siren went off. Catapulted into activity, I bolted into the living room and started running in circles. My husband kept yelling, “Turn it off!!!” But the thing was so loud I didn’t want to get near it.
After he extinguished the sound, we stared at each other. What triggered it? With trepidation we began checking all the doors, windows and finally the exterior of the house. Nothing. We called the police. They didn’t find anything. Then we tried to go back to bed, but the adrenaline alert was harder to turn off.
The best thing about the product turned out to be the money back offer.
Marketing Our Faith
Internet technology has changed how we do business. It has created a host of new ways to market our products and promotions. There’s more talk than ever out there, vying for our attention through our inbox as well as our mailbox.
But the marketing bug has infected areas of life that used to be considered outside the realm of advertising. Doctors, for example, traditionally took an oath to render service to humanity, not to make a profit, but now medicine has become just another market. Doctors, dentists, hospitals advertise and compete for their market share.
The same can be seen in the area of faith. There’s more talk than ever, boisterous with claims, assertions, and finger pointing. What’s driving all that talk? Churches, pastors, and even individual Christians are competing for their market share.
James speaks to our situation. Don’t become gullible or cynical. Instead believe what they do.
Let’s follow his argument this week through the study guide or the questions below.
This Week’s Questions
- What question does James ask in 2:14? Restate it in your own words.
- What words does James use to describe faith in v. 14, 17, 20, 22, and 26?
- What two examples does James give of dead faith (vv. 15-20)? Compare and contrast them.
- What is the content of the demon’s faith? See Deuteronomy 6:4. Why isn’t it real? See Deuteronomy 6:5 and Hebrews 11:6.
- What two examples does James give of living faith (vv. 21-26)? Compare and contrast them.
- Paul and James seem to contradict each other (compare James 2:24 and Romans 3:28), but Paul always encourages works to accompany faith (1 Thessalonians 1:3). James provokes us to take that connection seriously. Why?
- How did Jesus show the connection between faith and works at the cross?