Uttering the words “be warm and filled” provides no warmth against freezing conditions nor food for empty stomachs. The apostle James writes that faith leads to action. If it is real faith, there will be practical consequences. Faith is not the expression of kind, well-meaning words or good intentions.
In Deuteronomy 6:8-9 we read the following regarding God’s words:
“Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
Some do this quite literally. They roll up tiny scrolls and seal them inside little boxes that they attach to the side of the doorframes on their homes. Then they strap similarly filled boxes to their hands and foreheads. Which of course misses entirely the metaphorical point: the word of God is supposed to fill our minds and be lived out in our actions.
But too many Christians are satisfied by merely distributing Jesus tchotchke around their homes. And while there is nothing wrong with having Bible verses framed on our walls, or having inspiring sayings embroidered on our towels, there is more to living out our faith than generating memes on Facebook or guilting people into reposting them to prove they really love the Lord.
Inspiring words will not put food in our bellies. Saying “be warmed and filled” does nothing to solve any actual problems. Good intentions do not end hunger. Warm words do not make a good blanket. Marching, petitioning, waving signs in the air, “coming together” in solidarity, #IBELIEVE, changing our Facebook picture and adding a ribbon to it: you haven’t actually done anything at all! You’ve heard it said “the pen is mightier than the sword” but when it comes to actually stabbing your assailant, I think the sword will do a better job of it.
Last week we ended with the phrase in Revelation 13:10 “this calls for patient endurance and faithfulness.” In the face of persecution, in the face of living out what Jesus promised, that “in this life you will have trouble” how do we embrace the second part of what Jesus said “I have overcome the world?” How do we live that sort of life? How do we embody “patient endurance and faithfulness?” How do we overcome?
By putting God’s words in our minds and then choosing to act them out with our hands.
When you have no money and the rent is due, how do you face that? How do you focus on God when your loved one is sick and in the hospital? How do you have faith when the Gestapo is at your door? How do you keep believing when ISIS has come to cut off your head?
You have to decide, with each moment, each choice, at each turning point, in the middle of each crisis to remember God and to rely on God. And how does God help us? Mostly by using the people around us.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
It isn’t easy. Ever. It is hard. Always. And it is ongoing. And you may be scared. And you may not have things turn out as you’d like. You may lose it all. You may die.
What good are the Bible verses in frames on your wall then? What good is “I love you” when your heart is broken? And yet, from the thought, follows the action. Saying “be warmed and filled” is fine. We need polite words, good words, encouraging words, kind words. Telling people you love them, care about them, and will pray for them is good. But if it is in your power to do something, then shut up and do something. When you see someone hungry, give them food. When someone is lonely, spend time with them. When someone is fallen, pick them up.
Okay, so maybe it is easy; just messy sometimes, and inconvenient, and sometimes it costs something. Talk is cheap. Solutions are costly.
So. Choose you this day who you will serve. Consider Isaiah’s reaction:
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)