Summary: This is the second sermon in the series Extreme Makeover. A faith that doesn’t get it’s hands dirty is dead.


James 2:14-26

April 4, 2004


Today we will be continuing our series titled “Extreme Makeover” in which we are looking at the book of James to see what kind of makeover Jesus would give us. Last

week we saw that Jesus wants us to have big ears so that we can hear his word and obey

his teachings. Today we are going to look at our hands. If you were to watch a makeover

show on TV and they were dealing with hands, you would expect to see the ladies (and

even the men) getting manicures and their nails painted. Before that they would probably

receive some sort of massage or soak for their hands as well. In contrast to that, if Jesus

were to do an Extreme Makeover on your hands, the first thing he would do is to get them

dirty. You say, “What! Dirty hands! Who wants dirty hands?” Your reaction is

understandable for we live in a culture where “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” We pride

ourselves on being clean and well kept. We look down on people who fail to maintain

good, proper hygiene. So why would Jesus want his followers to have dirty hands?

Aren’t we supposed to project a positive image to the world? Aren’t we supposed to be

clean and holy?

Here’s the problem. According to George Barna 50 million Americans claim to be

born again and most surveys show that approximately 40% of Americans go to church on

a given Sunday. But surveys also show that there isn’t a lot of difference between the way

the average churchgoer lives and the way the average nonchurchgoer lives. Where does

that leave us? Shouldn’t the salt and light of 40% of the population be having a greater

impact on our society? or at least the church itself? What is going on here? Is there

something wrong with the Christian faith? Does the gospel not have the power that the

New Testament claims it has? Could it be that our faith needs an Extreme Makeover?

When I suggest that our faith needs an Extreme Makeover I am not suggesting

that the true Christian faith needs a makeover. I am not suggesting that there is anything

wrong with that. I am suggesting that there is a problem with the kind of faith that many

professing Christians have. James says that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by

action, is dead.” (v.17) And again, “faith without deeds is dead.” (v.26) James is saying

that even back in the days of the early church there were some who had the wrong kind of

faith. This false faith is nothing more than profession without practice... intellect without

involvement. This is not saving faith. It has been said that we are saved by faith alone,

but the faith that saves is never alone. You see true faith results in regeneration and

regeneration results in a changed lifestyle. James is very far from saying that we are saved

by works. He is saying that our works or good deeds are the evidence that we have been

saved by faith.

Because of this Jesus wants followers who have real faith and are, therefore,

involved in practicing the faith they profess. Jesus wants us to get to work. It was Paul

who told us “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (Php. 2:12) But watch

out because when you get to work you are going to get your hands dirty. Have you ever

seen a mechanic hands when he was done working on a car. They are filthy. If a

mechanic claimed to have been working all day long and his hands were as white and clean

as mine are this morning I would have good reason to question his work ethic. Likewise if

our hands are too clean this morning Jesus has good reason to question our faith. For

dirty hands are the evidence of work and our works are the evidence of genuine faith.

During the stretch drive of the 1978 Canadian Football League season, the

Toronto Argos had hastily flown in what appeared to be a potential "franchise" player and

signed him to a ten day trial. The team set him up in luxury accommodation and catered to

all his lavish needs.

In a short manner of time though, the Argos had discovered that this player was

actually a con man. His specialty was in fooling franchises across the continent into

providing him with all expense paid trips.

This con man both looked like a football player and talked like a football player but

he was no football player. The moment that he set foot on the field, it became

embarrassingly apparent to Argo management that his only true skill was "talking the talk"

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