Most people come back from mission trips very cynical as they look around at the waste and disregard of money in their culture.
I’d hate to be that guy. Well… I’m not actually.
My response isn’t merely cynicism. I could only be a cynic and a hypocrite with this issue. So can’t really go there. Instead it’s sadness, for my culture and myself. I feel what James says, that the “fine appearance” of riches “comes to nothing” and will “wither away in the midst of… busy lives.” Money isn’t evil, but the busyness and appearance of our lives can be. Even our apparent lives of faith.
“What use is it, my dear family, if someone says they have faith when they don’t have works? Can faith save such a person? Supposing a brother or sister is without clothing, and is short even of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; be warm, be full! – but doesn’t give them what their bodies need – what use is that? In the same way, faith, all by itself and without works, is dead.” – James 2:14-17
“Lord, I pray for Joanne to get some food tonight. Amen. Okay… seeya later, Jo.”
Pretty stupid, right?
And yet on a global scale this is what the western church is doing. And by western church I do not mean fancy big churches we can all point to and pharisaically shake our heads at. I mean us, the people, the plenty, who’ve been absolutely taken by the world of consumerism. The fine appearance of consumerism.
Busy people seem so self-important. So self-important. That’s what busyness does. What are we busy with? What are we busy towards? If it’s not generosity it’s not Christianity. If it’s not works… it’s not faith.
The scariest verse in all of James: “What use is it, my dear family, if someone says they have faith when they don’t have works? Can faith save such a person?”
Implied answer: No.
“Now look here, you rich! Weep and wail for the horrible things that are going to happen to you! Your riches have rotted, and your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and your silver have rusted, and their rust will bear witness against you and will eat up your flesh like fire. You have stored up riches in the last days! You have lived off that fat of the land, in the lap of luxury. You have fattened your own hearts on a day of slaughter. You have condemned the Righteous One and killed him, and he doesn’t resist you!” – James 5:1-3,5-6