Summary: James writes to these troubled believers and reveals the manner in which Believers should respond to the NEEDY
James 1:26–27 "If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. " "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."
James introduces a new subject to his first century Jewish believers as he exhorts them to KEEP the FAITH. So far in this epistle, James has addressed trials (1:2), wisdom (1:5), wealth (1:9), temptation (1:13), and the tongue (1:19).
Now, in James writes to these troubled believers and reveals the manner in which Believers should respond to the NEEDY. Dealing with this subject was vitally necessary, because many of these believers were suffering persecution for their faith. In spite of this, it appears from what James writes that some who suffered were finding little assistance from those who were not. A class division within the church had developed and James understands the destructive nature of overlooking the needy.
Poverty and wealth will be repeated in this Epistle.
2:2-5. Showing partiality to the rich and ignoring the poor
2:14-17. Faith without works (sends the hungry away hungry)
5:1-6. Sins related to wealth (false trust, oppression, over-indulgence)
But we are not living in the first century. There are few orphans and no orphanages in our community. Widows today do not face the financial isolation experienced in the first century.
QUESTION: What does Christian Compassion look like in 2014 in South Jersey?
There are three parts to our consideration of this question.
1 - How American Politics create a barrier to Christian compassion
2 - How All Believers Should Respond to the Needy
3 - Expressing Christ-like Compassion in our Culture Today
1- How American Politics create a barrier to Christian Compassion
What are your EXPERIENCES with HELPING the POOR?
This Christmas, Kim wanted to go to CAMDEN to help some friends with a clothing and food distribution for the homeless. She told me, “the Lord wants me to go to Camden.” I replied, “The Lord doesn’t want you to go to Camden.” She really wanted to go, until I reminded her of what happened on Choir Tour when we were in college.
During our college days at Word of Life we were part of the Collegian singing group. One of our performances was in a poor town and Kim was counseling a small group of girls who came forward to ask Jesus to be their Savior. After the counseling was over, Kim got on the bus but didn’t have her shoes on. We all asked her what happened. “One of the girls said that she didn’t have any shoes so I gave her mine!” That was great, I said, but weren’t those the only shoes that you had for the performances? She replied that she hadn’t considered that, so the next morning, our bus made a stop at the nearest K Mart and we all chipped in and helped Kim get a new pair of shoes.
So in any event, I wasn’t too keen on her taking our car to Camden!!! There’s no telling what condition she would have come home in!
In my years of pastoral ministry many people have come to me for financial assistance. I try to help when I can but I am not comfortable giving anyone money, lest it be used to purchase cigarettes, alcohol or drugs - the staple that many homeless people put above food, shelter or just about anything else.
One day at lunch time a woman came to the church asking for money to buy food. She said she was hungry. My mind kept replaying 1 John 3:17 "But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?" I had to do something but I didn’t want to give her money.
I remembered that there were some hot dogs left over from a prior activity. “Maam, I can’t give you any money, but if you will wait here I will make lunch for you.” She was hungry enough to wait while I microwaved a couple of hot dogs.
I spoke with here for a short while and then left her alone in the kitchen to eat. Just about then, the pastors returned, passed by the kitchen and saw a rough looking woman eating hot dogs. “Who is that?” they asked. Well, the name “Hot Dog Man” has stuck ever since!
Perhaps you remember The NYC POLICE OFFICER who gave a HOMELESS MAN a PAIR OF SHOES this past Christmas. We were all moved by his generousity and compassion. But a week later, he was barefoot again! A newspaper did a follow-up story on the man who said “Those shoes are too expensive to wear out on the street”