Journeying through James, 2:15-17

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:15‑17 (NIV)

I am a fan of slapstick. I’ve watched the Three Stooges, and the picture that James describes reminds me of one of their slapstick routines. They’re in a sinking boat, and one decides to help by drilling a hole in the bottom of the boat to, “Let the water out.” In others words, if someone could really say, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” and think they’re showing compassion—their faith is sunk. The poor person would just stand there and think, “Really? Seriously?!”

James is talking about bare essentials here: food and clothing. Stuff that someone needs to stay alive. This verse is not really about charitable giving; the real issue is more serious. If someone really acted like this, it would reveal that they aren’t listening to God, or worse yet, don’t really know Him. The apostle John, for example, wrote: “Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God” (3 John 11, NLT).

What we can learn from this is an appreciation for the opportunities that God brings into our life to bless others. We can ask God to help us understand that everything we have is a gift from Him. He gives us the privilege of sharing.