The Letter of St. James To the twelve tribes of the Dispersion
“Has not God chosen those who are poor…” Luke 6 20 And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit." CCC 2546 "Blessed are the poor in spirit." The Beatitudes reveal an order of happiness and grace, of beauty and peace. Jesus celebrates the joy of the poor, to whom the Kingdom already belongs: The Word speaks of voluntary humility as "poverty in spirit"; the Apostle gives an example of God's poverty when he says: "For your sakes he became poor."
CCC 2547 The Lord grieves over the rich, because they find their consolation in the abundance of goods. "Let the proud seek and love earthly kingdoms, but blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven." Abandonment to the providence of the Father in heaven frees us from anxiety about tomorrow. Trust in God is a preparation for the blessedness of the poor. They shall see God.
CCC 2446 St. John Chrysostom vigorously recalls this: "Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs." "The demands of justice must be satisfied first of all; that which is already due in justice is not to be offered as a gift of charity": When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.
The Law of Love 37 He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and the first commandment. 39 The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
Good Works The theme of these verses is the relationship of faith and works (deeds). It has been argued that the teaching here contradicts that of Paul. The problem can only be understood if the different viewpoints of the two authors are seen. Paul argues against those who claim to participate in God’s salvation because of their good deeds as well as because they have committed themselves to trust in God through Jesus Christ (Paul’s concept of faith). Paul certainly understands, however, the implications of true faith for a life of love and generosity. The author of James is well aware that proper conduct can only come about with an authentic commitment to God in faith.
Good Works (continued) James 2:24 See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. Romans 3:28 For we consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.
Good Works (continued) It seems that the only Scripture a Bible believer knows about good works is that we are not saved by them (Eph. 2:8,9)! Sadly, many have further adopted an attitude about good works that they are virtually insignificant. [There are] Biblical truths about this important subject. Christians are to let their light shine which means that they are to do good deeds before others, even the unsaved…. (Protestant Evangelical Outreach)
Good Works (continued) There’s a mindset that has circled through Christendom that believes, and then lives out of, this: “Once I’m saved, I now just hold on and wait until I get to heaven. Jesus said, ‘It is finished’ so I’m literally going to ‘rest’ in what he accomplished for me on the cross and not concern myself too greatly with becoming the Christian God has planned for me….
Good Works (continued) We are not saved because we have done good works but because God would have us do good works. So good works are a result, not the cause of, our salvation. We are saved by grace through faith alone, but not by a faith that remains alone. We are created and saved to delight in doing good works, humbly loving our neighbor, happily exhibiting the grace and love of Jesus to those around us and selflessly serving those in need….
Good Works (continued) The third century Roman Emperor Julian wrote: “The Jews take care of the Jews, and the Greeks take care of the Greeks, but the Christians, not only do they take care of themselves, but the Jews and Greeks as well!” So, Good Works is a witness. (Protestant Mars Hill Church)
What are Good Works? For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. (Matthew 25:35-36)
What Happens If We Do No Good Works? ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ (Matthew 25:41-43)
Say What? ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:45-46)
More Good Works By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. (John 15:8-10)
Teachers in Peril James 3:1-2 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you realize that we will be judged more strictly, for we all fall short in many respects. (I’m glad that I’m only a facilitator)
Questions for Thought What does St. James say about favoritism? – Whom is he addressing? – How do you respond? – What is the Law of Liberty? What does St. James mean about works? – How does it differ from Martin Luther’s claims – How does this difference impact us today? – What are some additional ‘Good Works’?
One More Question What is the difference between “active faith and dead faith”? – Which kind do you have?