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Bible reflection Week 1

(24 Posts)
AMumInScotland Wed 02-Sep-09 14:34:31

James 2.1-17

My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favouritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, 'Have a seat here, please', while to the one who is poor you say, 'Stand there', or, 'Sit at my feet', have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters.

Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonoured the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?

You do well if you really fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. [For the one who said, 'You shall not commit adultery', also said, 'You shall not murder.' Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgement will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgement.]

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill', and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

AMumInScotland Wed 02-Sep-09 14:38:42

I think this passage is a great answer to anyone who acts like Christianity is all about "feeling holy" - it's meant to be about treating everyone equally, and making sure they have what they need here and now, not making pious statements about how the poor will be "blessed in heaven" or any nonsense like that.

My plan for these threads is to do them probably weekly, and mostly use the CofE lectionary, just because I have it handy!

Please feel free to pile in with whatever comments or questions or vaguely related thoughts you like - there's no restriction on how confident you feel about your faith or your knowledge of the bible, and (for those who don't already know) I'm very much a liberal when it comes to the bible, so don't worry about whether or not you take all of it literally or not.

MaryBS Thu 03-Sep-09 10:00:38

I try really hard not to be too "judgy" when I meet people. I guess its human nature though, to judge people by the way they look or what clothes they wear.

Of course the other interesting thing about James is this "faith without works is dead". Something I have a lot of sympathy with, but it can appear to clash with Paul and others who say we are saved by faith alone. I think the point for me is that we shouldn't do good in order to get saved, but we should do it because we love God and because of that, we should help others - Jesus gives us many examples of this.

weegiemum Thu 03-Sep-09 11:01:13

"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill', and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead."

This is where, IMO and IME, Christians fall down. We do "stuff" we think is holy, but people in this world are dying of hunger .... I think it is a big issue for the more evangelical churches (where I belong) who are so obsessed with "preaching the word" that they never think about "life before death".

Do you know that in the Eastern Orthodoxies, James comes right after the Gospels in the NT - thus is given supremacy. But in the West, we have Romans, and Paul's other letters, to which we tend to give supremacy .... one of the useful things I leanred at Bible College!

MeAndB Thu 03-Sep-09 15:12:32

I was having a conversation the other day about how no matter what I do will get me into to Heaven(ie works) so its interesting to see it here as well. I know that I am saved by God's grace, but I am also aware of how that doesnt let me off the hook, I still need to act like a christian and help others in anyway in which I can.

I think some christians get hung up on doing the big flashly works and forget that even the simple things are just as important, get a friend a pint of milk because they cant get out the house is just as important as doing a fund raiser for kids in africa. Doing the more in your face things doesnt mean you get into a nicer part of heaven there is no VIP room.

Nettee Thu 03-Sep-09 16:56:37

As a universalist I can't get into the faith/works argument but I do quite like the passage.

I think what MaryBS says about doing good things because we love God (or humanity) is spot on.

vinblanc Thu 03-Sep-09 17:05:37

Re: faith without works is dead.

This does not mean that you work your way to salvation. Faith in Jesus Christ is all that is needed.

However, what does a living faith mean? If you have a living faith and are filled with the Holy Spirit, then good works are an inevitable consequence. They are irrestistable, really.

When we have hard work to do (the Lord's work, not your regular job or chores), then it becomes so much easier after prayer and worship.

A living faith also helps us to stop doing things that are wrong. It doesn't mean that we don't slip up, but let the bad things in life drop away over time. A dead faith may be one where we know we are saved and will be forgiven again and again, so we might as well do as we please - but that is wrong too. A living faith means that we confess and repent.

AMumInScotland Thu 03-Sep-09 20:21:13

I certainly find it odd to balance up a Calvinist upbringing, where the emphasis did seem to be on works, or perhaps rather by Christianity being more defined by what you didn't do, and coming to a true faith in a liberal Anglican church which stressed grace almost to the point where there was no expectation on you to actually do anything.

I think I'm sort of settling down to what I think we're all saying in one way or another here - that yes we're saved by grace, and we're not doing things in order to get onto God's good side, but once you accept a gospel of good news for all, you feel you ought to be doing something about it, and dealing with injustice. Not because we have to, but because it's the obvious choice to make.

BetsyBoop Thu 03-Sep-09 21:39:41

The thing I always struggle with is that although I kid myself I do what I can, I know if I'm being totally honest I could do more, and I guess that's true of most people.

That said none of us are perfect and it's better to at least try & make a difference, even if it is sometimes with the simpler things, rather than just say "it's all to hard", "what difference will one person make?", etc.

I guess I'm agreeing with vinblanc that we confess I repent, once we've done our own self-analysis style school report with "coukd try harder" written on it grin

Alambil Thu 03-Sep-09 22:06:30

Just a small point, but how many churches / christians are afraid of "works" because it's thought of to be huge stuff that's expected of us (feeding the hungry - is that one person, one town or one country?)

BUT IMO works needn't be huge - it may be paying for the car behind you on the toll bridge as well as yourself (then pull over to see their face - it's brilliant!) or for example, doing this collection for Trinity - that's a "work" of kindness, no? It's not huge for me to do, but an act of love...

as an example, I was in Asda once doing my shopping, at the till getting ready to pay. The till next to me had a small commotion with the people not having enough money for their stuff. They were about a fiver short, so I passed them the fiver I had in my purse. Nothing major, but made a difference to them.... I didn't offer to pay for everyone who was struggling or declare it done for the love of Jesus to be shown to them, but it was an act of kindness / help / whatever for my fellow citizens, I think

I don't know if that makes sense, but I wonder if we need to stop being afraid of just helping out our immediate environment in such a way and thinking the whole "acts" is meant not to save the world, but to be more immediate?

positiveattitudeonly Fri 04-Sep-09 09:22:57

Oh just found you here. Not used to these threads and I was waiting for this to start on the other one! (Durrr!!!) blush

Just wanted to say what I feel about the "works vs faith" issue. I feel that if you have been given (and accepted) the gift of faith, then the working of the Holy Spirt, which we are promised, compells us to work. Hand in hand. No separation. This should include not being judgemental and treating everyone as God would want us to treat them. God loves everyone the same, rich and poor. Pastor and drug addict. Me and those I find it difficult to rub along with. We are called to become more Christlike, so our aim should be to love everyone, just as Christ does. In fact I feel that many times Jesus enjoyed spending times with the marginalised more than with the "important" people around Him.

Application for me today is to make a concerted effort to do an ARK to someone who others may pass-by. smile

Glad I have found you on here. grin

DutchOma Fri 04-Sep-09 10:14:33

I think James is so right. How can you say you have 'faith' if it doesn't show itself to anybody?

ARKs are very effective, the best is when people say:"I just knew you were a Christian, you are so kind." Even better if they don't realise it was 'you' and thank God for it.

And the "Freely, freely you have received, freely, freely give." Yes, I know it is a very cheesy and outdated song, but the sentiment is a good one.

MaryBS Fri 04-Sep-09 11:18:47

I feel pleased with myself for figuring out what an ARK is

I have to admit finding random kindness easier than considered kindness. To go out of my way to be nice to someone who (I feel) has done me an injustice can be really tough. Also forgiving and forgetting. How much should we forget unkindnesses, given there's a high probability that its likely to happen again?

nickelbabe Fri 04-Sep-09 11:36:12

i worked it out, but i've always heard random acts of kindness, so i got a bit confused.... blush

anyway, i interpreted the verse as we should treat everyoen the same, no matter how rich etc.
but does this mean that we should be givign to the rich people as well, even though they already have stuff?
should we offer that fiver at the till to the rich person who just can't find their purse?
or am i being too literal and tripping over myself?

i think MaryBS might have the point, when although we're treating everyone the same (ie with kindness) the act of kindness to a rich person is holding a door open or smiling at them in the street etc, when for a poor person, the act of kindness is giving them something that they need (eg the fiver at the till or a pair of shoes, or the bottle of milk etc)
have i got that right?

vinblanc Fri 04-Sep-09 17:02:52

The Christian faith is all about relationships - with God and with one another.

Buying a pint of milk for someone who is housebound is great. It is showing that you care about the person, thinking deeply about their needs, and fulfilling them. Even better is to sit with them for a while after giving the milk - make a cup of tea and have a chat - and mean to do it again soon.

As long as acts of kindness are not some kind of tick list, or subject to some numerical limits (as Paul said, love does not keep count).

We are the hands and feet of Jesus and our 'work' is do do what Jesus would do. The most important thing is to love one another, so we need to not be afraid of showing this love in good works.

vinblanc Fri 04-Sep-09 17:05:48

Hmm, not sure how I feel about acts of kindness being random. I will have to mull that one over.

positiveattitudeonly Fri 04-Sep-09 17:09:50

Sorry about ARK - Act of Random Kindness.

Nickelbabe - interesting thought about treating everyone the same. I suppose that giving £5 to someone rich would mean less than giving it someone who is struggling to stetch every penny. But as you say you can do something else for them. Everybody can have a smile and it costs nothing.

Mary - also find the considered kindness difficult, especially if it is a Christian that has hurt you. I feel it hurts more if its a Christian who metaphorically stabs you in the back. I suppose it is unexpected. hmm

positiveattitudeonly Fri 04-Sep-09 17:11:09

Sorry, crossed posts with you vinblanc

amberlight Sat 05-Sep-09 18:17:46

One of the wisest sayings was "If you give a person a fish, they have food for one day. If you teach them to fish, they have food for life".

Rather than see charity as us giving a token donation to someone we pity, perhaps it is better to see it as us trying to spread knowledge and skills...and perhaps the funding or pointing them to the right people with the resources to back up that knowledge, so that they can help themselves?

I know that in churches, people struggle to know what to do with me - whether to go for the full pity-and-help thing, the pray-for-her-to-be-cured gambit, or whether to actually treat me like a human being and an equal. I'd go for the latter every time, though if I need some help it's lovely when people say yes rather than "sod off" or "why should we - it's not our job" or "you're just being needy". Those responses are just really odd.

MaryBS Sun 06-Sep-09 13:10:41

Am not sure what happened at church today. Still "digesting it", but we got this reading from James today, and the young lady who read it said it like she meant it, complete with arm gestures. It was incredibly powerful. Then we got a powerful sermon on inclusiveness, parts of which blew me away, and finished with prayers themed on inclusiveness. Absolutely incredible!

Pogleswood Sun 06-Sep-09 22:50:28

Found everyones comments on faith and works very interesting,particularly LewisFan's point about expecting that we should be doing huge "works",and being intimidated by this.
What hit me reading this though was the way in one breath James says "have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become
judges with evil thoughts?" and in the next "Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? " which from my(admittedly agnostic and on and off stroppy) viewpoint seems pretty judgy. Especially as the poor get to be "rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom"
Sorry - this seems to be lowering the tone of the thread - but I'd really like to hear your opinions on this too. Is it really poor = good and rich = bad?

amberlight Mon 07-Sep-09 07:15:25

Jesus didn't seem to have much of a problem with money as long as people were sensible with it. I know many millionaires through my work, some of whom do treat others with contempt, and others of whom are the most kind and generous and ordinary people imaginable. Same with people who are not rich, really. I don't think that money makes people into something evil, though it (like so many things) can be used for evil purposes.

Jesus gave us some big speeches about how if you're given money by your boss, you really ought to invest and use it wisely and not just stick it in the ground and pretend it's not there, or waste it, or show off with it to impress other people, or nick it off others. Seems about right to me.

These days, a certain number of people who don't have a lot of money have chosen that, deliberately living on benefits rather than seeking work. Not the honest ones who really are looking for work, but the ones who 'play the system'. There are some. I'd say they're on no higher moral ground than a millionaire who's flashing their cash about.

I think the important thing is how people use their talents and skills and money: For God, or for themselves? Much to think on, for I'm sure I get so much of that wrong.

AMumInScotland Mon 07-Sep-09 09:42:09

Pogle - I agree it does sound like "don't show any favouritism, but the rich are bad so show favouritism to the poor". But I take it to mean more like "since some of the rich oppress you, it would be foolish to think that favouring the rich will bring any benefit to your church". Perhaps they'd been trying to justify being extra nice to the rich members of the church by arguing that everyone would benefit, and James is saying you shouldn't think that way, but should concentrate on behaving fairly yourselves.

To an extent, in order to act fairly you do have to favour the poor - say you collect money from everyone in the church - if you then divided it out equally amongst all the church members then those who were comfortably off would get the same as the poorest and the richest. So you should give it to those in most need in order to "level the playing field" a bit. Which is favouritism in one sense, but fairness in another.

Pogleswood Mon 07-Sep-09 19:34:18

Yes,I see this - it was just the way it hit me.I did wonder how much it was specific teaching to a known situation?
"mercy triumphs over judgement" is a cheering thought.

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