Necro Theology: Be Warm And Be Filled

You have too many druggies coming to your church. The comment came after what I believe was intended to be a sincere compliment. “We like what you’re doing down there…but you’ve got too many druggies in the church.” My first impulse was to offer to refer some of our folks to their church. Instead I just pointed out that the term “recovering addicts” was more fitting. Cowardly, I know. I should have just let this person have it. How ridiculous to assert that your church can have too many hurting, broken, needy folks. After all isn’t that what we all are: hurting, broken, needy? Our church has received lots of criticism since its birth. Some of it we earned from being stupid. Some of it we didn’t earn and is simply misinformation that gets disseminated in a small community. Some of it we earned because we are trying to do exactly what the Bible calls us to and what other churches don’t want to do. We believe firmly that we are to care for the needy, the homeless, the recovering addict, the prostitute, the broken. After all, there not “those people,” they’re just people. Just like us but with different and unique struggles. The reason we are so passionate about this ministry is because we believe that ignoring those in need is a sign of a dead faith.

James continues his discussion of dead faith in chapter 2, moving from verse 14’s rhetorical question to more precise articulations. In verses 15-18 he points to the disregard of those in need as signs of a dead faith. He writes:

15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,  16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?  17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.  18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

Love of thy neighbor is the second greatest commandment, linked inextricably to the first. And love means action. Here James is illustrating a stark difference between saying you love your neighbor and showing you love your neighbor. One is evidence of living faith, one may be evidence of a rotting corpse walking.

The set-up for this illustration has a man, poorly clothed and poorly fed, in great need.”What good is it,” James asks, if a Christian looks at this man and says, “Be warm and be filled?” Not only is the comment completely useless, but it is entirely insensitive. The comment, and the lack of action, reflects an attitude of complete disregard for the well-being of another. In the Greek the phrase is reflective of someone saying, “God will take care of you.” There are some Christians who think like that. They believe that the poor are God’s responsibility. They might not say it that way, but by their actions they clearly demonstrate that they think that way. “God will care for the poor, and therefore we don’t have to.”

For James, the matter is one of action. “Without giving them the things needed for the body” there’s no actual love for your neighbor. The apostle John says the same thing: Whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? (1 John 3:17) The idea for John is that you can’t love God and fail to serve your neighbor. The two are incompatible. In James’ mind this is evidence of a dead faith. “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

I live and pastor in a pretty messy city. This small city has all the major problems of a big metropolis. Poverty, crime, prostitution, and homelessness. Our drug problem has made both national and international news. Our town also has a church on every corner, and yet so little is done for these neighbors of ours in great need. Our church certainly doesn’t have it all figured out. And we are grateful for the few other hands that are working alongside us; but so much more needs to be done. The sad truth, however is that for many this will never come across their radar. Helping the poor is not their task. To such folks I want to say, “your faith is dead.” I probably won’t say it…maybe because I am a coward. Maybe because I don’t think it will help. But James says it for me, and he carries more weight. If you say you are a Christian but don’t care for your neighbor in need then your faith is dead!

Comments

  1. Great post.Dave.

  2. P. Edgington says:

    Really love this post!!…..Maybe if this individual had ever experienced drug use in their own life or a loved one’s life, they wouldn’t loosely use the term, “druggies!!”……we are ALL broken in some way……we are to help all the needy, poor, hurting persons we come in contact with on a daily basis……..I think several people have turned me down on coming to Rev for the same reason….guess in a small town everyone fears anything different & out of their comfort zone!!……Oh, well, their loss!!!!…….wander what Gospel they living by???……P.S. never thought of u as a coward!!!!!…LOL

  3. Rick Duncan says:

    “Too many druggies…” What a badge of honor!

  4. That’s what blogging is good for: saying the things we wouldn’t always have the courage to say in real life. Either way, bro, say on! 🙂

    • Pastor Dave Online says:

      Truth be told that has never been one of my problems. I usually speak too quickly and say what I think without being more careful and reflective. I am working on that…sometimes.

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