Monday, March 21, 2016

James 2:14-17 -- On Faith, Works, and Puzzles

"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

God makes a pretty clear point here, letting us know that we have to go beyond belief, and beyond faith, and actually get to the action.

I think we all start in different places.  Some of us start with believing, but we just observe from there, and don't really do anything about those beliefs.  Some people actually start from actions.  They help someone when asked, or go through the motions of going to church, and learning the principles, but they don't really believe in it, or understand the emotion or dedication behind being committed to God.  And God makes an excellent point about deadness... one without the other, either way, is empty and dead.  It's easy to toss around labels like hypocrite or fake or whatever, but I think we've all been in those places.

Starting out one way or another is okay.  A car is still valuable without a battery, and a battery without a car, even though separate, they aren't going to really accomplish a lot.  The value is still there mainly because of that potential joining. The trick it to not stop and assume that we've accomplished our tasks because we've gathered the required parts.  The jigsaw puzzle is not complete while still in its box.  The trick is to take the pieces that we already have and keep going.  We keep adding, and keep moving, and find our way to the place where our beliefs and our actions match... where we are fully committed to God, and acting on that commitment to build the kingdom and serve God's people.  And even after that, until we reach heaven and perfection.

It's tempting to say when we're incomplete that we can never be.  The dog chewed up that piece, and we lost the other one in the mud, and we watched maybe 12 of them fall down into the vent.  We've got over half of the picture, but that is all we can ever be, because those pieces are gone.  Serious sin in our past might have tossed some necessary pieces away, and we don't know how to get them back.  It seems impossible.  Or maybe we just don't want to put some of them in.  Maybe there is someone we can't forgive, or maybe we don't want to commit to one of the things God has asked us all to do, like tithing or going to church, or keeping the word of wisdom.  So, in situations like this, let's go back to the beginning.  Faith and works together.  It might be empty now, but we can start from belief or start from action, and try until we work our way into both.

And for the pieces that truly are gone, and our opportunities past, then let's have faith that God will take our incompleteness and make it complete and glorious.  That's what he has promised.  We do what we can, and he'll recover those pieces from wherever they are and in whatever state, and make us whole, no matter how badly we've mangled the job.  We have to work at this kind of faith as well.  We can't ever give up.  We have to keep doing good and finding hope, and doing everything that we can.  As we do, God will show us how our puzzles fit into each other, making a community and a world and filling everyone's missing pieces with beauty and power and magnificence until we all unite, not as some Borg intelligence, but as individuals that know how to make something more of what they are and what they can do by joining together in a community with a common purpose.

Today, let's start from wherever we are, with whatever motivation we can muster, and join with God to start the process. :)

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