You’ve probably heard people say that we need to do something about poverty in the US. We do. There is no doubt about it. Their solutions, however, don’t match their words. They don’t get personally involved in helping people in financial poverty. They don’t visit impoverished areas and talk with the people there to find out what to do. They don’t give any money to organizations that are involved in helping people get out of poverty. They may support laws to help people who are in poverty, but that require little effort on their own part, and, in the long run, keep people in poverty. Do they really believe that we need to do something about poverty in the US?
If people really believe in a cause, they get involved. They take action that involves personal sacrifice. Of course, if they are really concerned, it won’t feel like sacrifice. The Apostle James looked at followers of Christ who were proudly declaring their faith and asked a simple question. What difference does it make? If you have faith, does it make a difference in your life? Or, to quote directly, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” (James 2:18b)
There are many who have taken this passage in James and decided that Paul and James were battling over the issue of grace vs. works. I don’t know if that was happening, but I don’t think the two were at odds with each other in this teaching. When you proclaim faith in God, He begins changing you through grace. If you have been changed by grace, it will show in your life. I can’t imagine that Paul would look at someone who claimed to follow Jesus and yet lived an openly sinful life with no apparent changes, given enough time, and say, “That’s ok. He’s full of grace, so it doesn’t matter how he lives.” Paul even asked and answered the question, “shall we sin that grace may abound? Of course not!” God’s grace will conform us to the image of Christ, and if He is not changing us we are being disobedient, which means we don’t have enough faith to believe that God wants the best for us, even if it means jettisoning behaviors, attitudes, and/or things that we have always been attached to.
So what difference does our faith make? I wouldn’t try to make my experience the norm for all people, but I think it’s safe to say that true faith in God will result in care and concern for others. Did you ever notice that when Jesus saw someone caught in sin or problems related to sin that He ministered to them and cared for them? When He had met their need, He would warn them about sinning again, but He met their needs. Our job, as followers of Christ is to meet the needs of others. We do it not in our own power, but in the amazing power of grace that God gives to us. Amazing grace has far more purpose than to make us feel good about ourselves; it is designed to make us care for others and make a positive difference in the world around us. Some followers of Christ focus on specific causes. Some are the kind who are able to respond to any need they see. Whatever the situation may be, though, if God has given you grace in Jesus Christ, it should show in the way your life has changed. Show me that God has changed you by the way you care for others.
Lord God, there are so many needs in our world. As You give me grace to become Your child, give me even more grace to live for You each day by meeting the needs of others. Grant me the grace to help even one person today and make a difference in their life.