James 2:1-17 (passim) 1 My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? … 5 Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. … 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. (NRSV)
[Scripture quotation from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]
Listening Carefully to James 2:1-17
All attempts to please vanity (especially in the church) are unmasked for what they truly are — namely the kind of selfishness and malicious behaviors that are the cornerstone of the domination systems of this world. Conversely, the God-process gives preference to the poor, opening to them citizenship in the Commonwealth of Peace and Justice. Pay attention! Who causes you more distress — the poor or the purveyors of privilege? Which of those groups are more likely to be your neighbors? While you may have to live in the same city as those who consider social status and station to be pre-eminent and those who twist the rules, regulations, and laws to serve their own personal needs, you cannot show partiality and favoritism toward them. Love, mercy, and compassion trump prejudice and judgment every time — every time, that is, in God’s reckoning. So put your faith to work — actually what you do is a valid demonstration of what you trust. Provide food for the hungry; give shelter to the homeless; connect with those who lack much so that you might determine how to help them find what they need. Actions of these kinds will demonstrate that your trust is with God in you. Otherwise, your faith is defunct.