What good is it my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 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? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2:14-17
I wanted to talk about putting flesh on God’s handiwork. I have been asking myself the question, “What can I do for you today, Lord?” How can I say yes to being the hands or feet of Jesus? How can I love as Christ loved and give up my life as a fragrant offering to God’s glory? I feel like the answer lies in opening our eyes to the needs around us. We live in an area that has homeless men and women on almost every street corner. It’s easy to forget they are there or to see them as just part of the scenery. I try very hard not to do so and to encourage my kids to actively see the needs of the people around them. We like to make up gallon size Ziploc bags with toiletries, snacks, hygiene items, and warm hats, gloves and socks, and then keep these bags in our car so that we can deliver them to anyone we meet that we feel has a need. I’ll often pray when we pull up to the street corner and ask God what that person might have need for and then give it whether it’s food, money or other things. When we go through a coffee shop drive thru, we will buy an extra coffee and bakery item and then pray for someone to give it to. We do the same at a fast food place as well. Recently my youngest son was with me when we exited the grocery store. We saw a young man with no socks on and no hat or gloves, trying to stomp around and warm his feet. My son was so excited that we had just restocked our Ziploc bags and asked if he could give the man one. I love to have my kids make the delivery and grow their faith and mercy. I watched as he gave this man a bag and mentioned there were some warm socks in it. The man kind of nodded and took the bag. He didn’t actually say anything but while we were loading our groceries we could see him immediately put on the hat and gloves and start putting on the socks. It made a big impression when my son saw that he met an immediate need for someone, and these are often teachable moments as well. My son noticed that the homeless man did not say thank you and we talked about it. It was ok that we didn’t receive verbal gratitude in that moment because we weren’t doing it for that reason, we were doing it to honor all that God had done for us.
As much as I try not to become immune to the need I see on a daily basis there are times when I’m distracted or in a hurry and am not aware. It warms my heart when one of the kids will speak up from the back seat and point out someone and tell me what they need. Oftentimes, if I’ve run out of Ziploc bags or snacks in the car, I’ll try to grab a few dollars instead. I know sometimes people get upset and believe that anything given might not be used properly but long ago when I felt confused as to whether or not I should be handing out money, I felt God whisper in my heart that it was not up to me what the recipient did with what they were given, in fact I didn’t have to do anything other than obey God’s prompting-He would do as He willed, all He wanted was my willingness and obedience. I can’t tell you how freeing that is. This is true even when I’ve been called out by bystanders. One morning when I had completed a coffee run and had a drink and food for a lady that I had noticed on my way in, an older couple rolled down their window and began shouting at me that I was the problem and they will never learn-we can’t be giving handouts and so on. I was surprised and a bit flustered but I calmly replied that kindness was never wrong and handed the woman what I had.
I’m also challenged by the above verses in James, whenever someone is sick or hurt. It is easy for us to say that we will pray for them and then go about our day but I’d like to challenge you to get a little uncomfortable and reach out a little deeper. You might say, “I have Tuesday afternoon available, would it be alright if I bring you a meal or watch your kids so you can get some rest? I’m going grocery shopping Thursday and I would love to pick up some things for you, what do you need?” This is so much more tangible and specific that I think people can respond to rather than just saying let me know if there is anything I can do for you. The truth is not everyone knows what they need or they may not feel comfortable asking. On top of everything please pray for them also. We all need prayer and we need as much as we can get! I don’t like to tell people I will pray or be praying for them unless I know that I can commit to doing it. It feels dishonest and inauthentic. If I write it down I am much better about remembering. AS time goes on it’s getting harder to remember everything! In I John 2:5-6 it says, “but whosever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whosoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
We live in a lost and hurting world and I believe if we walk out our faith and put it in action we will compel people to come to Him by being Jesus with skin on, this is the fragrant offering. We don’t do it because it is easy and convenient-in fact it is just the opposite! I must sacrifice of my time, energy and resources. We do it because we love Jesus and want to share with others how much He has done for us. Many times you hear people complain about the “church” at large. I challenge you to be the church you dream of others seeing. Make a difference in the lives of those around you. Ask yourself, “is the world a better place because you are in it”?
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me” Matthew 25:35