by, May 17th 2010 at 04:00 AM (552 Views)
"Faith and Love"
We are now entering the last part of chapter two. It is important to realize that they are all on the same page, they are dealing with the problem of partiality, of favoring the rich over the poor. This is going to excess in the way they speak and overtly treat those who come to the worship service. This probably extends into their everyday life. The differences in socal status are reflected in so much of what the early society among the Gentiles was all about.
James takes it a step farther into the personal life of the believer. Paul taught Titus that faith goes with good works, as God planned from the start.
2: 11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
True faith teaches us to live holy, pure lives and to be eager to do good. It controls both our inward attitudes and how we express our faith in deeds of goodness and love. As James warned, the Law of Liberty is a standard or life that we will be judged by; all that Paul taught up to the end of his life agreed with this. If you look at Titus 3:8, it simply echoes what Paul said earlier in chapter two. Faith that does not express itself in love is not faith, but a profitless way of living.
James opening question:
14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?
is really rhetorical and expects the answer 'No!!!!!', both from context and from parallel teaching in the New Testament writings.
I cannot stress enough that the rest of chapter two must be read in the light of what has gone before. If there are any doubts, consider James question following:
15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
The effect of verses 14 through 16 is to point the uselessness of such a crass, cold attempt to follow Jesus. When one picks up his cross daily, he sacrifices all to God, even the material goods. The commandment of love demands that we answer the Lords pleas in the faces of lives of those around us. Too many, for too long, have seen Christianity as 'a belief unto itself', and there is no truth in that. It promises a deep fellowship with God, and that fellowship carries the Law of Love into our lives. Faith is never alone. As Jesus told the disciples, it bears the command of love:
14: 23Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
A very precious promise, and one of His teachings:
13: 34"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
These two verse actually echo the Royal Law of Love: 1) to love God with all you have and, 2) to love you neighbor as yourself. Of course, some will say that Jesus was speaking only to the twelve (or eleven), to such people I can only refer them to the New Testament documents as a whole with a provise, 'Read them, read them, and read them some more!'.
Martin Luther is said to have coined the dictuem 'faith alone' that became the Protestant cry. Luther did a great service in freeing us from the horrible excesses of the Catholic Church in his generation and I am deeply thankful for that. But, this is the same man who had deep problems with the writings of James. My humble opinion is that, for all his great and good work, he was too influenced by the world he sought to change.
Certainly, the 'good deeds' that the Catholic Church and Tetzel were hawking was not the acts of love that Jesus, Paul, and James taught as being at the heart of belief in Jesus Christ. While condeming Tetzel, we must not smack James because he believed and taught what his older brother taught him. James had to learn it the hard way, but it stuck with him and he gave his live for teaching what his older brother, Jesus, had taught him.
So, James follows with two points that are backed up by all that he has written up till now, it is context, context and more context that James falls back on:
18But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds."
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.
19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
Well, James is actually getting a little sarcastic here, also. In verse eighteen, he is quoting how some will seek to seperate the two things, faith and deeds, and argue that the two have no relation whatsoever. James response is that the pudding is shown by it's taste. To James, the statement does not pass the 'taste test'. It did not pass for John or Paul, either. James would have fit right in with the 'Missouri Mule' crowd, just 'show me'. James dictum at the end of eighteen stands with the full force of Apostolic authority and teaching.
But now, James gets really sarcastic. If you compare verse ninteen with Deuteronomy 6:
4"Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!
Every Jew knows that this is not the only part of the law, but this is an important part., and even the demons believe it. They know it by personal experience. But, they are still demons. They believe it, but just that 'alone' has done them no good. James sarcasm runs deep here. I can see some Jewish believers, guilty of being partial, jumping on this and walking off in a huff.
James is not above using a little satire to make a point. The second part of the satire draws a likeness between the ones who are practicing a 'faith without good deeds'. It is just possible that James is also pointing back to verse four where he calls them '...judges with evil motives.', now here he is drawing a 'family likeness'. They are acting like evil ones in how they are living their 'faith'. James is being crude on both accounts, but his portrayal of the heartless behavior in verses fifteen is justification for this, at leat in James eyes. Love demands a proper course of action, and some jpeople in the body have been doing evil in place of this.
It is impoetant to realize how heinous James feels this action is. It is this realization that helps us to see what fuels his argument. As an Apostle, he is remonstrating certain Christians here. A good parallel is seen in how Paul addresses the Galatians who are in danger of falling back into the legal bondage of circumcision and all that it entails.
Galatians 3: 1You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?... 3Are you so foolish?... 4Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing?
Paul is writing in an angry, sarcastic tone as he seeks to correct certain behavior. He is accentuating a point. James walks a little bit more on the ‘wild side’ by his connections of ‘evil judges’ with ‘evil demons’, but the point is made. So many miss this point in the rush of ‘theological pressure’ to see this whole section as a separate entity.
I guess my biggest soap box is that these letters were not written ‘verse by verse’, but in paragraphs with a context that included several verse and/or chapters. You have to read this second chapter as a whole unit, and weigh it against what James has said in the first chapter. Perseverance, Joy, prayers for wisdom and growth of character are what is commanded of us.
This must be reflected in the way we treat others. James sarcasm is all the more biting because it just underscores what should be the usual way of relating, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. Yet, in this situation, the ‘evil judges’ are turning this on it’s ear and making a mockery of it. Just go back and read verses fifteen and sixteen. Let them roll of your tongue, roll around in your emotions, and then imaging how you would feel if you were one of those poor looking for help.