Show Me State
LEA Weekly Devotional
Week of September 10, 2006
Pentecost 14 (B)
Extended Reading: James 2:1–18
Show Me State
“Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense? … you can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove” (James 2:17–18 MSG).
No. This devotional is not about the beautiful State of Missouri, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, the Gateway Arch, Ted Drewes frozen custard, withering summer heat and humidity, the Busch family, and natural doubters. Not to mention the LCMS International Center, CPH, and the marriage of the Missouri and Mississippi Riivveerrs.
No. This devotional is about a condition called the show me state. It is the state that demands proof of claims, not the least of which is the claim of being a Christian.
James was governor of the show me state. He saw through the veil of feigned Christianity; he forced guilty consciousness on Christians who did not demonstrate their faith. James rightly frightens us all.
Two things may happen when people read James. Either they feel self-righteous, self-satisfied, and self-sufficient or they feel like miserable failures and may even wonder if they really are Christians! Obviously, both feelings are unsound.
Any group of words starting with self- exposes a faulty focus. When focus strays away from Jesus Christ, it’s wandering in the wrong direction. Not that we can’t revel in what Christ has done for us! He made our self worthy of salvation through His own giving up of self—as God! Our self-concept can now be good because of what He did to make us good.
The other problem may be bigger! And more dangerous.
Do you ever doubt that you are a Christian? An initial reading of James can indeed cause one to ponder the state of one’s Christianity based on the state of evidence. Read James more often, and the situation may worsen. We know we often don’t measure up to expectations. We know how to act, but be fail. We know that our behavior is evidence of our faith, but …
But what? But is often the disclaimer we add to an excuse. “Officer, I know was doing 85 in a 45 zone, but my frozen custard was melting!” Mrs. Phibster, I know the school’s policy is not to take away recess, but Filbert always pretends to be a pit bull.” “Yes, pastor, I know I should be in church every Sunday, but it’s my only day of rest. Say … didn’t God take that day off too?”
James’ associate in ministry, the famous Apostle Paul, had a problem similar to ours. Paul knew what to do. Not only that, he actually wanted to do what he knew to be right. But sometimes (often?), he just couldn’t do it (Romans 7).
Paul’s frustration was our gain. Paul knew the treatment for his problem: “I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different” (Romans 7:24b–25 MSG).
The Holy Spirit isn’t done with us yet! We are a work-in-progress. Our show me state is gradually moving toward completion. And while we wait for that day, the final word from James in today’s reading (“Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove”) reminds us that, for now, the hand in the glove has nail hole in it. But (no excuses necessary) the name on the glove is ours.
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