Today’s reading is James 1-2.
The book of James is usually given credit to being written by Jesus’ brother James. There is so much Godly wisdom in this book…especially about facing challenges and the power of belief and prayers in the first chapter. I highly recommend a small group study by Francis Chan if you are ever wanting to dig in deeply.
At the end of James 1, and throughout the second chapter, James begins to discuss the importance of works to come along with your faith (James 2:14, James 2:17). Life is about building relationships. The reality is we have to build relationships in the professional world, and often in even in sports, to advance and have the impact God’s called us to have. We should not feel bad about that, but we must also be mindful if we only build relationships and do things for others when we can get something out of it for ourselves. James makes it a point to discuss the problems with partiality (James 2:9), specifically to the rich over the poor (James 2:1-7), and the importance of helping others who can’t return the favor.
In James 1:27. he specifically talks about helping orphans and widows. I have been blessed to see an example of doing so by my father. He cared for both of my great aunts who were widowed with no children, as well as his mother and my Mom’s mother. One example for the care he showed is that while still running his State Farm agency, he would leave to get the mail and stop by to see my maternal grandmother with dementia every single morning before returning to the office. He would not only get her laundry, but do something as simple as clean her glasses everyday..even though she would not have known the difference. Now, he cares for a widow of no relation who has no living relatives after her sister passed. He’s helped her figure out ways to qualify for special assistance and programs so she can stay in her home which is very important to her and also so she can get by financially. When I was home last week, he purchased her a gift for her birthday. There’s nothing she can do in return for him, and I admire him so much for this. I think hardly anyone knows he does this…it comes from the goodness of his heart. Not to mention that he also helps my Mom who has challenges walking after a series of spinal cord issues. The Bible discusses spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12:6-8. I truly believe caring for widows is his. He does not stop there though. A few years ago while they were at Mayo finding out whether my Mom would ever walk again, he befriended a homeless man he met with an addiction to sniffing paint. He bought him a meal, got to know him, and helped lead him to someone an area at the hospital who could get him the help he needed. He noticed and took action despite the challenges, uncertainty, and stress him and my Mom were facing. I can’t help but also think of Hebrews 13:2 which we read yesterday. His example challenges me to not only use my spiritual gifts, but most importantly to bless others who can do nothing in return like James 1:27 and James 2 does.
Why should we bless others who can offer nothing in return? Surely, we should not do it because of a feeling of obligation, to get puffed up with pride by the “good deeds” we are doing, or to be noticed by others. We should recognize the sacrifice of Christ on the cross for us when we could offer nothing in return. He did so while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8)…even though we directly and repeatedly continue to disobey him. His heart should cause our heart to change and show the same sacrificial love that He did. Thank you, Dad, for modeling what Christ did for us and for showing a great example of this.