SEEING NEEDS AND DOING FAITH
James 2:14 inquires,
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?”
As James goes on, he argues that faith without deeds is particularly worthless for those who are in need. “Dead” faith sees a need, but doesn’t do anything to meet it. Instead, real religion can be seen through action.
If we want to be the kind of people who have faith that is real and alive, we must be ready to help and serve others. Our busy schedules and hurried days threaten to keep us from enacting our faith in this way, but these three steps can help us to continue to cultivate real and authentic faith:
Ask to discover the real need
But what about the rest of the time? How often do you ask someone else, “What could I do to help you?” or “How could I serve you?” People may be resistant to answer, but that doesn’t allow us to avoid asking. In James’ example, the need was obvious—food and clothing—but this isn’t always the case. If you’re like me, you might be guilty of assuming what someone else needs and missing the real need. Sometimes this means we give money when what was needed was quality time, or vice versa.
Do what you can
None of us can meet every need of everyone around us, but before we simply tell someone, “I’ll pray for you,” we can do what we can to meet that expressed need. This is the point at which we can be creatively incarnational—being Jesus’ hands and feet to everyone we meet. Maybe your elderly neighbor next door is lonely; offer to cook for her once a week and let her teach you how to crochet. Maybe a friend has a hard time getting to church because he doesn’t have a car; offer to drive him and have dinner together afterward. Maybe a young friend is having trouble finding a job; offer to help review her resume and practice interviewing together. If you can offer someone a home, car, or job to help, don’t assume God doesn’t want you to help in those big ways, too. However, not being able to completely solve someone elses’ problem doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways you can help and be Jesus to him or her.
Prayer doesn’t come last because it’s a last resort, but because it shouldn’t serve as a scapegoat for our inaction, as it does in James’ example. Just like his audience, we can also be guilty of offering to pray for someone instead of actively showing our faith through our action. However, even with all our efforts, we acknowledge that God is ultimately in control of circumstances. God desires to care for his children and He often chooses to do so through the normal means of people, so we pray, not instead of action, but as we act.