James 1:25 “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres; being no hearer who forgets, but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”
It has been my privilege to begin studying James with some of the other ladies on the mission. We agreed to meet every Thursday and, since Uganda doesn’t recognize all US holidays, we met on Thanksgiving day in the midst of our regular work week to study chapter 1.
I was particularly struck by the emphasis of action that follows faith. It has constantly been my prayer for our neighbors (and myself) that our faiths will transform how we live, how we think and who we are. As Chris and I have intimated before, it is sometimes difficult here to decipher between genuine faith and grasping beggars. My cynical side questions the public confessions of polygamists and the sporadic attender who always needs a job. The reason for my doubt is partially a cultural shift to where there is a language without the word please. I am also reticent because I know myself.
The prayer must include me as well. I know that even as I read, “let every person be quick to hear; slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19) some self-indicting memory arises. What worth is the guilt that it precipitates if it does not also cause me to be quicker to hear, slower to speak and slower to anger next time? I may read the scriptures, go to church and even move to Africa, but if the gospel does not change me my “religion” is worthless (James 1:26).
This is where the tension between James’ assertion that faith without works is dead and Paul’s in Ephesians 2 that we are saved by grace through faith reminds me of Christ’s completed and ongoing work in all our hearts. I’m thankful that my standing with God does not rest on my ability to respond perfectly to His revelation, although I must respond.
In the midst of my processing James 1, I was sent a Thanksgiving prayer from a friend that proved to be particularly apropos for the passage and the occasion.
Oh Lord, when I have food, help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work, help me to remember the jobless;
When I have a home, help me to remember those who have no home at all;
When I am without pain, help me to remember those who suffer,
And remembering, help me to destroy my complacency;
bestir my compassion, and be concerned enough to help;
By word and deed, those who cry out for what we take for granted.
The aforementioned friend is Frank Cianciarulo. Thanks, Frank for the prayer!