james read-along: week 2

Wednesday came too fast this week. Wowza. I’m still reeling from Chapter 1. But I suppose we shouldn’t drag this out over a zillion weeks (even though we totally could–so much to unpack!).

Because we’re leaving for Cambodia in 88 days!! Can I get a WOOOHOOO?!?!?! (Plane ticket/bank account mishap still not resolved. Trusting God to work it all out. He’s so good.) ALL HAS BEEN RESTORED! ALL GLORY TO GOD!

The memorizing is going well(ish). I thought maybe I could memorize a chapter a week, but I think that was a little over-ambitious. I have the first 18 verses pretty much down(ish). Lost my groove over the past couple days. Here’s to getting it back.

Chapter 2 starts out with a bunch of exhortations to not show favoritism to rich people over poor people. And texts like this kind of make me proud for a second, because, “Hey! I like poor people! Even more than rich people!” And then 1.) I feel convicted of my reverse snobbery/partiality and 2.) I’m reminded that I’m one of the rich people (richer than 99% of the world = filthy rich).

v.5 “Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?”

I don’t claim to understand this verse completely, but there’s a definite correlation between poverty and faith. The less you have, the more uncertain your financial future, the more faith you have to have in God’s provision. I experienced this in a first world way today. Charged double for our plane tickets, checking account overdrawn, we have no access to our money, can’t cash checks. Just $5 to our name. Living on a prayer, baby.

And what did God do? Brought someone to our door who hired Gabe for a photography project. And, wonder of wonders, she paid him in cash.

I said this over and over again on our zoo trip to the point of obnoxion (totally a word). God shows up biggest and brightest when we’re all out of resources. It’s a scary/freaking awesome way to live.

v.10 “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.”

Classic you’re-screwed-without-Christ verse. Lest we think our righteous acts are enough to get us anywhere on our own.

v. 14 “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?

Oh, goodness, we could spend a lifetime on this verse. Lots of people, I’m sure, would like to excommunicate it (and the verses that follow it) from the Bible entirely. In a nutshell (borrowed from David Platt), James’s deeds/works are different from Paul’s works (he says we’re saved by faith, not works).

James isn’t talking about something we do to earn favor before God. He’s talking about the natural, overflowing fruit of real faith in God.

It’s not faith + works = salvation. It’s faith that produces works = salvation. Subtle difference? Not as subtle as I used to think.

v. 15-17 “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.”

1 John 3:17 says the same thing. “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

And Matthew 25:31-46. (so worth the read) Basically, giving water to the thirsty, food to the hungry, clothes to the naked = doing that to Jesus. And not doing it for the least of these? Means going away into eternal punishment.

If anyone wants to explain that craziness away, have at it.

Discussion Questions:

1. What one verse stood out to you as oh-my-wow (or however you would say it)?

2. What do you think of this quote from DP–“People who claim to be Christians but fail to help poverty-stricken believers are, in fact, not saved.”

3. What questions/concerns do you have about this chapter?

56 thoughts on “james read-along: week 2

  1. Tonia

    Better late than never on this response.
    1. I guess vs. 19 was kind of eye opening. The fact that even demons believe in the one true God. So, it is by our actions that we are separated from them.

    2. It is pretty strong. I guess, my explanation of that is that if you are directly given an opportunity to help a brother and don’t, it seems that you are most definitely committing a sin. As for the explanation of Matthew 25 and tying it in with this, you really could explain your way out of this one. For instance, I pointed out to my husband what Matthew 25 says, and he said good, you should go to help if you don’t help poor people. And, I said, well we really don’t (I guess I was thinking directly). He said absolutely we do through taxes and tithing and sponsoring our World Vision kid, blah blah……I’m still feeling pretty convicted about needing to do more. LOTS more. And how, when, where? It’s overwhelming to me to be presented with these ideas because I feel so sad that I can’t save the world and help everyone truly in need. And, why me? Why did God choose to bless me by letting me be born in this country where I am so rich compared to most of the world. What am I to do with that (Sorry for the tangent….)

    3. I guess the one thing that stands out to me is v.15-16 and the need for me to pray about what I should do, and how I can show my kids how to love and help others. I need to pray for where God is leading me at this point in my life when it comes to the poor and hungry.

    Thank God for His written Word. It is so comforting to have even these scary passages that jolt me from my content life that I constantly am so discontent with. Another tangent…..sorry 🙂

  2. Cheryl

    1. I can not pick one there are too many that makes me go wow!
    2. Wow! I think DP statement also ties to James 2:13-“there will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.”
    3. How can I see people through Jesus glasses?
    How does God want me to live out his plan for me so that I am living out my faith?
    Loving this study! Thank you all for your thought provoking comments!

  3. Ellen R.

    As a direct result of our study on both James 1 and 2, my husband and I have been in deep prayer about how to serve the poor in our (small) community and called Department of Child and Family Services this week to inquire about some things we can do.

    More details later when things are more firm. 🙂

  4. Pingback: Marla Taviano » 1 way to live out james 2

  5. Lorena

    1. I think thenwhole first part on partiality is the part that stands out the most to me. Mostly because that is an area where God has really been working to change my thoughts and behavior. It has been very hard to undue some of the thinking that I learned over the years about how Christians are ” supposed” to look, dress, etc. I found myself quick to avoid people who did not fit in the mold. Even though I knew all along that those standards were put into place by men, I think it was easy to adapt to that type of thinking because everyone else around me was doing it also. Somehow if you were doing certain things or dressing a certain way you couldnt possibly be spiritual enough. God ripped us from our traditional conservative
    Baptist church and has put us in a Church where the gospel is preached without rerservationl some of the godliest people I know are the ones with the tattoos and long hair. I have come to acknowledge the fact that I am no different from these people. I think I have always known it, but in some way haven’t always completely accepted it. I am understanding more and more every day that the only reason there is any good in me is Christ. He loved me and has been so gracious and merciful toward me when I was so fAr from being deserving of it. Others deserve that kind of mercy from me.

    2. That is a pretty strong statement and I am not sure that we can judge another person and the condition of their heart based on that alone. I do think that if you have an active and growing faith that is loving others as a result of the Holy Spirit and his work in you that it should be easy to want to help others who are in need.

    3. Nothing this week. :o)

    1. Marla Taviano

      Sadly, I think a lot of churches have many, many rules that have absolutely no basis in Scripture. 🙁

      And I know DP’s statement was strong, but how else do you explain the Matthew passage where Jesus says that those who ignored the needs of the poor will be sent to eternal punishment?

      Thanks, Lorena!

      1. Lorena

        There are people who claim to be Christians who help the poverty stricken who are not in fact saved.  It is not that act of helping those in need that determines your salvation. Salvation is by faith alone in Christ. 
        Period. To try to say that you   MUST do a certain thing in order for salvation to be true in your life is to say that Christ’s death on the cross is not sufficient to pay for your sins and that you must somehow and in some way do something to earn it.

        Do I feel that Christians should help the poor? Absolutely. Christ commanded us to do so. I believe that if we truly are saved that helping the poor will be an outpouring of love that comes from the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is through the understanding of the mercy and grace shown to us by God through Christ that we should have the desire to want to show that same mercy to others.   The Holy Spirit works in each and every one of our lives in His own way and His own timing. It is not our place to judge a person according to where they are in their own spiritual journey. The only one who has the right to judge is God.

        Almost everything I read on the Matthew passage and its context said that Christ is talking about showing mercy to fellow believers who are in need. And it isn’t just feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, it is also visiting the sick and those that are in prison. 

        I guess have been studying a lot about the gospel and God’s grace lately so I am a bit on the lookout for things that may once again bring me under the law.

        1. Marla Taviano

          Thanks, Lorena. I know I have no business judging another person’s heart and/or actions. And I’m trying really hard not to. What I’ve been concerned with lately is opening people’s eyes to the fact that their “faith” may not be true faith if it has no deeds of mercy flowing from it. I think so many people have been deceived that they can pray a simple prayer and be “safe.” And it never makes it from their head to their hearts. If it’s truly in our hearts, it’ll show in our actions. But you’re right–God’s mercy and grace toward US comes into play as well. We’re on a journey.

          1. Lorena

            Yes, we are. And I completely understand your heart for wanting to share what you have learned with others. I know that when God teaches me something and I finally “get it” that I just want to let everyone know and expect them to get it right away too. Steve says that I often try to be the Holy Spirit by thinking I can change everyone. He is right, I need to share but then let the Holy Spirit do His work. Keep sharing, sister! I love you and your heart for serving others. I will pray that through you, the Holy Spirit will work and other will get excited about livings and caring for others as well!
            And as an exciting p.s. I get to go back to Swaziland in March!!! I am sooooooo excited!!

  6. ali

    Speaking to your second question, when I first heard DP say that “people who claim to be Christians but fail to help poverty-stricken believers are, in fact, not saved,” my face got all screwy and I thought, “surely he’s kidding.” And then I listened to the rest of his sermon, and he did such an incredible job of helping me understand that true faith in Jesus is evident in the fruit in our lives. If we proclaim Jesus but we are not producing fruit, our religion is a sham. When we know and love Christ, we can’t help but be moved by the Spirit to do x,y, or z. That doesn’t mean we still aren’t fallen and sinful – of course we always will be. But James reminds us that even the demons believe there is a God – and they shudder! What sets us apart is that our faith produces works. That is the power of the Holy Spirit in us.

  7. Danielle

    I know I wrote a blog post, but I’m double dipping ’cause there is something God is really working my heart through. It has to do with the partiality thing, and I just wanted to share. Have you ever seen a woman walk into church wearing provocative attire and had the immediate urge to hide your eyes from her skin? Or, a girl sits in front of you and your husband and she’s wearing a sleeveless dress, thus looking topless from the back when viewed sitting down and you just wanna tell that girl to cover up her bare shoulders? I have, and it is such nasty partiality in my heart.

    Our church doesn’t have a “Sunday best” policy, in fact most people wear jeans to church, which I know could drive some of y’all crazy. There is no dress code, but most people end up looking very similarly dressed. And I have noticed myself, and others, being hesitant to greet a new-comer who may not know the social mores of our particular church. Or, maybe, they don’t know any social mores of any churches, and they just walked in the door seeking love. If I refuse to love because of cleavage, am I any different from the person making a poor man stand in the back of the assembly?

    Yes, we ourselves should seek to be modest in our attire, and to encourage our children and friends to do so also, so that we are not a distraction to our brothers and sisters. This is actually something I harp on a lot with my HS students. But, am I willing to look past what someone is wearing on a Sunday morning and see an image bearer of God in need of compassion? Am I willing to invite someone to sit next to me when it would be so much easier to judge her in my heart, and feel so righteous for covering up my assets? Why do I go to church, to feel better about myself, or to build up the community? Oh, the blackness that is still deep within my self-justifying heart!

    1. Sharon W

      Oh, I can so relate to this! It drives me crazy to see women (anywhere reallyl, but especially in church) that aren’t fully dressed. I don’t know that it ever bothered me until I got married, but I sure don’t want my husband catching a glimpse of anything he shouldn’t be. In all honesty, I think most women have no idea what a disservice they are doing themselves and others by dressing the way they do. I think especially young girls just like the attention they get from guys when they dress like they do. But I don’t think they have any idea of the actual thoughts going on in the guys mind. Otherwise they wouldn’t dress that way.

      1. Danielle

        I definitely am more aware of it now that I’m married too. The important distinction though is am I loving women as they are and inviting them to grow along with me in grace, or am I shunning them because of the potential hazard they pose to the minds of the men around them?

      2. Liz

        I agree i don’t think woman know how visual men are. Our church speaks about this from the pulpit and I think that is helpful but we still have many that dress very provocitive. I have to remember it is my job to love them not judge them. I often have to close my eyes during worship just so I am not looking at how people are dressed. Believe me I do not say that proudly. I have to remember God is so glad they are in church, He does not care what they are wearing and it us Satan pointing it out to me. When I notice them in church I TRY to remeber to pray for them right then, that they would feel God’s love and hear his whatever He has to say to them today, that they would walk away touched by God.

        1. Marla Taviano

          Great idea to pray, Liz. Women who are dressed immodestly used to make me mad, now I just feel sad for them. I want to hug them and let them know that they have worth far beyond their bodies. Evil is deceiving them. Their value has nothing to do with how good they look in a tight shirt.

    2. Liz

      Danielle I so agree with your post. I have a friend who dresses quite provocatively. I (and many of my friends) avoided getting to know her for the longest time because it was awkward to sit and have a conversation with her because she was so exposed. Ok I live in California where most of the people are exposed so you can imagine how exposed she is. I now really like her and know she loves God so much. I don’t know why she dresses the way she does but I know she loves the Lord and I am not supposed to judge her but love her. I also work at a Mega Church and most of our Pastors have many tats, that has helped me look beyond the tats. I usually ask people when I see there tats to tell me the story about the tats, what they mean and that is a great way to get to know them. People seem to love to talk about their tats. Thanks for your post.

      1. Danielle

        Most people get tats for a reason, and do have a story to share about them. I actually like talking about mine because it is evidence of God’s hand on my life even when I thought I was running away from him.

  8. Lesley

    James is reinforcing some of the feelings I have been having for a few years now. I struggle so much with what to do. I go through periods where I look at my stuff and get mad that I am such a poor steward of all that Christ has given me. Then the next thing I know, I am going out for dinner or getting some flowers for the patio. I just don’t seem to do what I know I should. Ugg.
    Platt’s statement is interesting. I do think that many Christian’s believe in Christ intellectually and therefore think they are saved. They read John 3:16 and think “hey, I’m good”. They know God forgives and therefore it doesn’t really matter how they live their life. I know this because I have lived the majority of my life with a similar mindset. I have always believed in Jesus but not always loved him. This makes me so sad. If you truly love Jesus you wouldn’t turn a blind eye to the poor. At some point your personal desires aren’t as important as other people’s lives. However, salvation doesn’t come from a “to do” list and I think that is important to understand.

    1. Marla Taviano

      Yes, yes, yes! True love for Jesus would overflow in loving what he loves. And you’re right–it’s not about a to-do list. It’s about responding with joy to what pleases a Savior we love. Thanks, Lesley!

      1. Kristen

        I struggle with this too, Lesley. My husband recently took my son and I away on vacation and I know it was quite costly. The whole time I kept thinking how the money we were spending could have been used to otherwise further the kingdom of God or to help those less fortunate than us.

        So how do we strike a balance? Do we walk around feeling guilty all the time about how much we have been blessed? And to what extent are we expected to give? My husband’s culture requires us to be very generous to his less fortunate family. I tell you with a sad heart that I have struggled to give freely and gladly and I pray for grace as we continue to fulfill our obligations.

        I am often convicted by Jesus’ interaction with the rich young ruler who was asked to give up all he had in order to follow Christ. May God mercifully give me a generous and compassionate heart and a desire for the eternal treasure of Christ, instead of earthly treasures.

        For me this goes back to being a “doer” and not just a “hearer”, as James talks about in Chapter 1. So often I feel the conviction to help others or be more generous, but fail in the execution. Here’s to being more proactive in my generosity and care for others!

  9. Rachelle

    The verses that really jumped out to me: V12, “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, V13 because judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgement!”

    mer·cy [ múrssee ]
    1. compassion: kindness or forgiveness shown especially to somebody a person has power over.
    2. compassionate disposition: a disposition to be compassionate or forgiving of others.
    3. something to be thankful for: a welcome event or situation that provides relief or prevents something unpleasant from happening

    Mercy triumphs over judgement because it is in mercy that we find forgiveness. Today I pray that my ability to be merciful would increase.

  10. Candice

    1. The whole favoritism section stood out to me in a similar way. I have become really judgmental of people in the suburbs where I grew up. All of their goals and lifestyles seem so superficial. I kind of quiver at the thought of moving back there one day. But this section really called me out on that because favoritism is favoritism no matter which side you find yourself on. Hopefully my husband and I can live our lives in a way that draws others closer to God and what He teaches.

    2. David Platt is really good at being outspoken, and I really respect that. I think there is truth to his statement for sure. At the same time, I thinks some of these people who are newer believers are probably saved because they are still going through the sanctification process in that area, and others who have been around longer really may not be saved. I think that the verse 2 Corinthians 5: 14 (For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died) ties a lot of these thoughts together. The more we mature in our faith and are convinced that Christ loves us then we will be compelled towards deeds and works.

    3. My lingering questions/ thoughts floating around are dealing with properly discipling people in the church so that their faith and covenant relationship with the Lord is vibrant enough that deeds and works start naturally flowing out. Our church is pursuing a really cool model right now that is seeking to solve that, but it can be hairy sometimes.

    1. ellen

      saved Rms 10:9 only one way to be saved – we really need to watch the judgement factor in that – Religion is what judges and adds to or takes away from someone elses salvation

    2. Marla Taviano

      This is great, Candice. It seems like the people Jesus called on the carpet were folks who had been in “church” a long time (especially leaders) and lorded their religious superiority over others but didn’t really truly share God’s heart.

      I think you’re right about those who are newer in the faith. It takes time to “work out our salvation” and grow to know God and what he expects from us.

  11. Brooke

    i’m in a weird place. i’m not sure i can blog about it because it calls out my husband on his unbelief and how he’s *NOT* just as good as a “real” Christian. but that would 1) tick him off, as he does read my blog and 2) be disrespectful.

    so I’m really not sure what to blog about today.

    or maybe i’ll be abiguious about it and not mention him.

    i don’t know. :-/

  12. whimzie

    My church is going through the book _Radical_ together. I just started reading it. I have had it for almost a year now but it’s just been sitting on my shelf because I didn’t really WANT to read it. Because of hard verses like these. It’s an irritating book. Just like _Crazy Love_ was irritating. My pastor was talking this weekend about how we’ve created an American Jesus who is just happy to accept whatever we’re willing to give Him. That’s not the way the rest of the world lives and that’s not what the Bible (I’m looking at you, James) says. Irritating.

    1. Marla Taviano

      Stick with it, girl. In some weird, twisted, Jesus sort of way, irritating starts to feel really, really good after awhile. Love you!! I’m speaking on Radical at a women’s retreat on Friday night. Pray for me?

  13. Sharon Meekins

    Hi Marla,

    I’m so loving James! 🙂 The verse that clearly spoke out to me with new awareness and conviction is James 2:5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?

    I saw this first hand in Haiti. The Haitian people that I got to work alongside with, worship with, and fellowship with clearly have a faith greater than mine. These are people with nothing, yet choose to serve and worship God no matter what. They have a passion to reach out to their own people and country to bring them back to Jesus. Our Lord clearly has His hand on His country, Haiti.

    Thanks for doing this! I’m so thrilled that everything worked out with your banking account! Praise God! God is so good!

    Much love friend!

    1. Marla Taviano

      I’m with you 100% on Haiti. I’ve fallen in love with them as a people, just from all I’ve heard and read from you and other friends who are serving God there. Praising him for their faith!!

  14. Liz

    I have not watched David Platt yet on Chapter 2 but I look forward to seeing it. One verse that spoke loudly to me was verse 12, “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom”. The part that got me was the “Law that gives freedom”. Law and Freedom sound like they would not go together but indeed they do, it is the law that gives freedm. Of course we need to be saved but then there is action to be taken by us. This statement was a great visual for me:
    It’s not faith + works = salvation. It’s faith that produces works = salvation
    I think DP statement is pretty harsh but I think I need harsh sometimes. If I am a believer and reading His Word how could I not know I am to take care of his people, rich poor, sick, black, white, prisoners. How can I be His hands, feet and voice if I am not willing to help the poor? Wow I need to be better about this. I have so much room for growth in all of these areas. I am glad God does not give up on me but gives me more opportunities all the time.

    1. Marla Taviano

      It seems harsh, yes, but he got it right from the Bible. Those who don’t feed/clothe the poor will be sent to eternal punishment. I’ve spent much of my life explaining that passage away. Or just ignoring it.

      1. Liz

        I am grateful God looks at our hearts and it is not up to me who goes to heaven. I have to remind myself God is God and I am not. He is doing a great job I might add.

  15. Melissa

    When I started walking with the Lord, the faith without works is dead verse hit me hard. It fits in with the parable of the talents, that we can’t just sit around with what God has given us, and we need to be using what he has given us. One of the most interesting examples I have heard of faith without works is when Christians go to lunch after church and then don’t leave a tip for their (poor) server. That speaks volumes. We need to make sure that our works reflect our faith also.

    1. Rachelle

      I agree, Melissa, Christians not tipping their server really irks me. I have a niece that waits tables on Sundays, she told me once that no one wants to work that day because of the often rude, ungrateful church-goers. It made me sad.

  16. Melissa

    “not as subtle as you think” Amen, girl. I am learning so much from watching Platt’s sermons on this book. and getting my toes stepped on, whew! Praying for your bank account resolution!

  17. ellen

    Loving James – don’t agree with DP for many reasons but..most, we can’t know someones heart. I think God show up in a big way when we are are in biiggg trouble because … we don’t look for Him when we are doing well. He is know bigger during trouble, which is why the poor seem to have more faith. They just know how to use theres better. I believe when we are saved (by faith alone) and start to act on that — works will follow and fruit will show – and when we understand the love of God (like many who have nothing do) works will follow –
    God is love and faith saves us — the word talks about mansions and jewels in heaven based on works
    I guess in a nutshell — when we really understand what God has done for us we will let Him use us to help anyone – rich and poor and we don’t get to define who is who — What does it profit a man to have everything and lose his soul.
    Expecting the whole money thing to be resolved NOW in Jesus name!!!!!

    1. Marla Taviano

      I’m all for helping anyone who needs it, but there are 2000 verses that talk about helping the poor, very few (if any) about helping the rich.

      And question for you: what’s the difference between the poor “having more faith” and “using theirs better?” If you don’t use your faith, you don’t have it.

  18. sharon k

    I used to not even pay attention to “poor people” I think that I just did not see them. God has opened my eyes to an amazing (and very sad on many accounts) world that I had no idea existed. I asked Him to take my life… He took it alright… but not in the way I wanted. He took me to Cambodia. Do you think my eyes fell on anyone poorer than myself? Ummm, yeah. My life has been forever altered. All we have to do is ask God to give us His eyes (just like the song) so we can see as He does. He wants us to see “them” because He loves “them.” Do you think there is no good reason for us (those of us who do) to live in the USA? There is a good reason and it is not that He loves us more… coz He doesn’t. There is a reason some have money and others don’t… And I can’t not think about how He has blessed me to be a blessing to others. I love You Lord!

    1. Marla Taviano

      Was just reading today that “life to the full” doesn’t mean what we think. The word actually means “life to the overflow” and “overflow” is translated in Scripture as “more than you need so you can give to others.”

      Love you, friend! Let’s chat about Cambodia soon!

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