Recently, my Sunday School class started a study of the Book of James in the New Testament. This study brought a lot of lively discussions. Some of those discussions continued for my husband and I as we drove home. The nagging thoughts from the class that stuck in my head can be summed up in the question, “Where is our trust?”
Psalm 20:7 “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”
To begin with, let me provide a summary of the Book of James. Experts believe Jesus’ brother James wrote this book. Initially, James did not follow Jesus but became a disciple after the resurrection. The central message can be summed up in the following words from Chuck Swindoll “faith endures in the midst of trials, calls on God for wisdom, bridles the tongue, sets aside wickedness, visits orphans and widows, and does not play favorites. He stressed that the life of faith is comprehensive, impacting every area of our lives and driving us to truly engage in the lives of other people in the world.” To me, James paints a picture of the way the church should look and act. Since we are the church, we are called to reach out to those in need as a way of life.
Matthew 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.”
As our class dug into the study on one Sunday, we looked at our money through the eyes of James. Do our finances affect how much we rely on God? Does income levels drive us towards or away from God? The questions caused me to do some reflections. On some of my mission trips, it appeared to me that those with less money, in other countries, seem to rely on God more than I do. If I am hungry, I go out and buy food. If they feel hunger, they turn to God and pray for Him to provide. Did I trust in my money to satisfy my need instead of God? But, didn’t Christ give me the means to buy food? I felt uncertain about how to answer.
Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
I began to dig into the subject. We see church attendance declining across the USA and most European countries. These same countries offer strong governments with good social programs to help the poor within their borders. In contrast, the church continues to grow in underdeveloped countries that do not assist their people in need. In developed countries, has the church surrendered its responsibility for caring for those in need to the government? The poor in America usually have resources available to them like food stamps, even if they are not ideal solutions. So, do I rationalize not helping others because I donate through my taxes already? Is the affluence of the west driving people away from churches because they don’t need God?
Matthew 6:21 warns us “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Money, in and of itself, is not wrong or bad. Money becomes a problem when we place our trust in it instead of putting our faith in God. Jesus expounds on this idea in Luke 18:24-25 “24 Seeing the man’s sorrow, Jesus said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Riches can be a stumbling block to our faith. But, there is good news for us. Jesus goes on in verse 27 to say “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
Matthew 25: “35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
So, what does it look like for us to put our trust in God and not in our resources? “James stressed that the life of faith is comprehensive, impacting every area of our lives and driving us to truly engage in the lives of other people in the world.” We, the church, must learn to be the very hands and feet of Christ to everyone around us. Matthew 25:35-36 gives us a glimpse of what the people of God should be doing to help others. “35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
These verses in Matthew are God’s calling to His people, not to the governments of the world. We should be:
- Nourishing the hungry and thirsty
- Welcoming the strangers
- Clothing the poor
- Caring for the sick
- Visiting those in prison
Maybe, if today’s church in the west, spent more time reaching beyond its walls, and starting programs to help those in need, instead of relying on the government, maybe they could become more relevant to the next generation. A church following James’ call to action will attract others to follow Christ while growing the Kingdom of God. Can we do it?
Yvonne, Blogger, speaker, and author
Matthew 28:19 “Therefore, GO and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”