Sermons

Summary: A continuing look at our faith and putting it into action.

Real or Fake Faith

James 2:14-26

July 26, 2020

I want to tell you about an experiment performed by 2 social psychologists at Princeton University in 1973. They wanted to determine if thinking religious thoughts would lead to people helping others in need. It sounds worthwhile.

This is what they did - -

Working with the Princeton seminary, they got seminary students to unknowingly participate. All of the students had to write an emergency 3-5 minute talk about how to help those in need. Half the students had to apply the Parable of the Good Samaritan from the gospel of Luke into their talk.

Then an assistant would come by and tell some they had to hurry to the building to give their talk. Others were told to go to the building, they could take their time.

They psychologists wanted to see if there was a correlation between hurry, religious thoughts, and helping others. Are you with me so far?

As the students approached the building, there was an actor sitting on the steps who looked like they were in need. Their head was down, they were slumped and they would cough a bit.

Each time one of the students would pass the actor, he would rate their response, using a scale of 1-6. 1 meaning they did nothing and 6 meant they stopped and wanted to help.

The students who were in a rush were much less helpful toward the man in need compared to those in no rush.

But remember they all had just thought about ways to help others. Some had just thought about a very relevant Bible story. Did it make a difference?

Not at all!!

Students on their way to give a talk about the parable of the Good Samaritan were no more likely to help.

The researchers noted, “on several occasions, seminary students going to give a talk on the parable of the Good Samaritan literally stepped over the victim!”

OOPS! That’s not good! So, why tell the story? We’ve been talking about the fact that God calls us to go into the world and make a difference. We are to put our faith into action. I know in our present world the stakes have changed and we might be more reluctant to help that person who is coughing on the steps.

We’ve also been looking at the book of James and checking out what he had to say to us about faith and actions. Last week we were looking at what fake faith is. Today we’re going to move into looking at faith in action.

In James 1, we read -

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. - James 1:22-25

As James says in verse 22, be doers of the word, not hearers only, thus deceiving ourselves.

Now, some background will make what James is saying a little clearer. James is writing to a predominantly Jewish audience. Which is something we need to hold onto as we look at what he’s writing.

Remember James is adding to what Paul said about salvation by grace, through faith. Salvation is not about works. And James is building upon the foundation Paul set for us.

But, why is there so much of an emphasis by James on not just hearing, but doing?! Here’s where knowing the audience is helpful.

When someone tells us to listen or ‘you’ve got to hear this.’ We don’t think of anything other than just hearing some noise, words or whatever it is.

Now, for the Jews, that is different. These Jewish Christians James is talking to -- would have prayed the most holy prayer every day from Deuteronomy 6:4,

4 Hear O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. - Deuteronomy 6:4

This verse has been simply called The Shema. It’s called that because the first word in that verse is the word Shema. It is the holiest of all prayers for Jewish people. It’s rooted in deep, deep theology . . . It’s also a very Christocentric verse as well. It’s about the fact that there is only 1 God.

Shema means to hear, listen, or obey. But for Jews that word means more than just hear something. And that’s what James is trying to get us to understand.

The Hebrew word means what Jesus said on a number of occasions. He would tell us “Have ears to hear.”

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