Typing this blog post, I feel a bit like Jerry Maguire writing the mission statement, "The Things We Think and Do Not Say: The Future of Our Business." Here's hoping I don't end up all alone holding a goldfish.
Question: How do you define your faith? No, I don't want the "being sure of what you cannot see" line we are quick to throw around. I want tangibles. I want your answer to be able to go to class with you for show-n-tell.
Let me put it a different way. If faith without works is dead, and you and I believe our faith in Jesus is alive and well; then what do we point to for evidence?
Unfortunately, the tendency for most Christians is to first look at the following categories:
- Church attendance
- What you drop in the offering plate
- Our frequency in studying the Bible
- Certain things you might abstain from (alcohol, certain types of entertainment, etc.)
- Milestones in our spiritual journey (baptism, confirmation, etc.)
I admit it, I have been guilty of measuring myself by these standards for the majority of my life. As a result, I developed an unsatisfyingly-hollow "checklist" type of relationship with God. Did I read my Bible today? Check. Did I tithe this past Sunday? Check.
And it's not just us. Churches do the same thing. For the past seventeen years, I have served as either a church staff member or leader, and I have sat in a number of meetings and conferences where we measured the success of our churches by these very standards or a slight variation of them. But in the end, it's just more checkmarks.
Until recently, it never dawned on me that God already defined faith for us. He took the guesswork away and supplied us with two solid, tangible answers.
In James 1:27, the Bible says: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress...”
Truth is, I have known this verse for a LONG time, but it has never come more alive to me than it has the last several years.
Look at it this way: Imagine if before I married my wife Janie, she sat me down and said to me, "Matt, there are two ways you can really show me you love me. These two things really matter to me. If you make these two actions a priority we are going to have an amazing marriage." I would be a fool not to listen to her and do everything in my power to align my life around those two actions.
Now imagine...what in the future could be different if you, me and the Church recalibrated our walk with Christ to match these words in James 1:27?
- Would there still be 150 million orphans in the world?
- Would there still be 500,000 children waiting for families in the U.S. Foster Care system?
- Would you still be a family of four or would you open your home to adopting two more children?
- Would your family be advocates, actively helping rescue children who are currently being trafficked for sex or slavery.
- Would the majority of the church budget still go towards staff and a building?
- Would those who have written off the Church be inspired by the way we love and defend the poor and helpless with wreckless abandon?
Let's call it what it is. James 1:27 (going back to the Jerry Maguire analogy) isn't a memo or a mission statement. It is a commandment to all Christians and churches everywhere, and it is time we start evaluating its priority in all of our lives.