Pentecost 16B - James 2:14-18

James 2:14–18 (NIV)

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.

 

            Remember back to your school days and in the study of science you probably learned that there were two types of energy.  Potential and Kinetic.  I was always taught that Potential energy pauses and Kinetic energy keeps coming.

            This ball, when sitting on the pulpit is an inanimate object.  It won’t move on it’s own.  It has no energy unless energy is given to it. 

If the ball is picked up it has potential energy to move - if it is let go.

While the ball has been picked up we can’t see it move itself. In this case I’ve picked up the ball – I’ve given it potential energy to move.  It is now possible for the ball to move on its own. 

            All I need to do is to let it go and the ball will fall down without any help from me. The ball’s potential energy becomes kinetic energy which is energy in action.  The potential energy is expended by the ball as it falls to the floor and bounces.  It moved because of the potential I gave it by picking it up.

      St James talks about the potential and kinetic energy of Christians.  He doesn’t use scientific terms to explain about the life of a Christian but he takes as read that a Christian has faith and that faith is active.  “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.

            For any action to occur there must be some stimulus.  For the ball to move from rest I had to move it up.  For a Christian to move he or she must first be moved with the Gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

            God saw that we are sinners.  As sinners we’re like a ball that can’t move on its own.  We can’t do any good thing on our own.  Everything we try to do on our own just can’t measure up to the perfection which God demands.

            In our natural un-Baptised state we existed in this world with no potential for doing good before God.  Even if we had given to every charity, feed the hungry and clothe the naked, and provide for the needs of travellers who knocked on our doors, we could still not do anything good before God. 

            We couldn’t do a good work because our motives would be in question.  Why are we helping this or that person?  Is it for personal gain?  Will we benefit financially?  Will we benefit socially?  Does it make us feel good? 

            Is it just a token so we can say we’ve done our bit for the starving in Africa or the social misfits in society to be seen as a good person? What are our motives for doing good?

            God saw people confined in a box of selfishness trying to lead good lives.  What he saw was a ball without movement.  There was something floored in us.  We were created to live good lives - but something happened.

            Sin became the barrier through which we couldn’t move.  God, in His mercy did something about it though.  He sent His Son Jesus to take us out of the box of sin.  Jesus, who died, was put in the box of the grave, who rose from that grave takes us out of our grave too.

            Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, gives us faith to believe that He died and rose for us - faith, to believe that we can be assured of God’s gift of life instead of the curse of death.

            Jesus takes us out of the box; lifts us up and gives us potential energy.  We have potential under Christ.  This potential allows us to move.  We have been given the capability to do good works in God’s eyes. 

We’ve been given the capability, to bounce for the Lord Jesus. We’ve been given faith which equips us to work for the Lord - to make ripples in the puddles of the world.

            Our striving to do things to earn salvation, to earn the potential is history.  From the moment we were taken out of our box in Baptism we were re-created for good works – to help the needy – to share the blessings God has given us.

            At the same time as God gave us the Saviour He sent us a model of how we can do good works acceptable to Him. 

            2 Corinthians 8:9 CEV For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich.

         Jesus hasn’t made us rich to be selfish.  He hasn’t given us potential for good not to put that potential into motion and make it kinetic - faith active in love – which keeps coming.  Faith and trust in the Lord Jesus is not for ivory towers, nor limited to this brick building. 

         A rugby team isn’t given a rugby ball to leave it in the dressing room.  They take the ball out and use it.  They share it around.  They work with it together to win the game.

         In the game of life the Holy Spirit coaches us to win.  We’ve got all the right techniques: faith, hope, love and power – God’s power.

         Christ’s Word is the rule book which guides the game – the Bible.  God is our manager who approves of our play so long as we use the guidance we’re given.

         We’re all on the team of the church too.  We’re Christians.  To go back to the analogy of rugby – can someone be called a rugby player if all they do is: mull about in the dressing room or sit on the sideline?  Wear the right clothes and boots?  But never enter the field and touch the ball and share it around?  Of course not!

         Can someone be called a Christian if all they do is sit in the pew and not act with their hearts and hands.  Of course not.  James says, 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

To speak well and to tell the truth with the lips and not act, makes one a hypocrite. Are you a hypocrite? 

I am at times! I speak but I don’t always act.  I say prayers for the hungry, but I don’t always give to the needy.  I say prayers for those who have no clothes or homes, but I don’t always follow my prayers with action.  I don’t always allow God to use me for His good purposes.

         But, thank God, He is gracious and forgives my inaction and through His Word inspires me to re-enter the game like a play who has been sin-binned.

         God has given us the potential through Christ to provide for the needs of others and He doesn’t want the potential wasted. God’s made us capable of acting in love, without selfish motives.  Christ died on the cross so that both what we say and do are acceptable to God and beneficial to others.

            A ball lifted up must make an impact and bounce.  A Christian has been lifted beyond sin and must make an impact and let his or her faith be seen in action. 

Jesus said, in Matthew 5:16 …, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. This doesn’t mean we all have to become social workers or pastors, or teachers.

         Jesus makes everything a Christian does a good work.  With Christ in our heart we live everyday before God – with God pleasing lives.  When we stuff up, neglect to do something, disobey, rebel against God – Jesus’ cross is there to cover for our faults.

            St Paul heard Jesus say 2 Cor. 12:9-10 …, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. ... For when I am weak, then I am strong.

            We can say that, “We are saved by grace, through faith, not by works of the law so that no one may boast, except in Christ Jesus.”

            We don’t act in love because we have to, but because we want to respond to God’s goodness to us.  It’s the same with worship.  Our praise and thanksgiving for God’s gifts are responses to His grace, not a condition for receiving His grace. 

            The Christian doesn’t do works of the law.  He or she doesn’t bounce for God because of necessity or compulsion, but in natural response for what God has already done for us.

            The Christian does good works because they are a natural response to God’s love.  The ball bounces because it is natural for a ball with potential energy when it is released to bounce.

            Are you a hypocrite then?  Do you bounce because you have too, or do you bounce out of love?  Do you bounce naturally because God has given you the potential to bounce?

            Let’s all bounce together for Jesus.

            Amen.