So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill," and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
I have a few disparate thoughts:
Thought one: "Mercy triumphs over judgment." If only we could remember that.
Thought two: I think this passage in its entirety is especially meaningful at this election season, but that's all I'm going to say about that!
Thought three, and maybe not so disparate after all:
The story I'll tell is about the day when some small boys first understood the principles James espouses here. I was a Sabbath School teacher for a special class, created specifically because we had a sudden influx of little boys of three and four, in between the nursery class and kindergarten, and I thought they were ready to begin to understand more about the offerings they faithfully put into the basket because their mamas gave them the quarters to do so.
I brought in an appeal letter I had received that week from a mission--I don't remember which one. It told the story of a little Chinese girl, four years old, whose name, as I recall, was Mei Li. She had been found rummaging in the dumpsters behind a grocery store, filthy and wearing rags. I read that much of the story to the boys. Their faces showed their amazement that someone of their own age had no one to take care of her.
"What do you think the grocery man should have done next, when he found her?" I asked. "Should he tell her, 'Jesus loves you, Mei Li!' and go back inside his store?"
"Well, Jesus does love her," said one of my boys indignantly, "but he wants her to have a sweater!"
"And food!" piped up another. "Was she really eating the food from the garbage can?!"
"Yes, that's all she had. Do you think we might be able to help, even though we live so far away?"
"How?" asked the boys.
"Well, let's count our quarters." We had four. "You know, of course, that one quarter won't buy food or a sweater, right?"
They took my word for it, at any rate.
"But if we send our quarters, and other people send their quarters, there will be enough to take care of Mei Li." Carefully, the boys divided up the quarters--this one for a sweater, this one for a sandwich, this one for a new dress, and this one to pay someone to give her somewhere to sleep.
Then I told them, "You'll be glad to hear the rest of the story." And I read about the store owner who had taken the little girl inside, fed her, washed her, dressed her, and taken her to the mission. The boys were pleased and relieved.
But I've never forgotten the look of comprehension on their faces as they understood for the first time that those quarters Mama gave them were to help real people, children like themselves.
Now, if only the rest of us could remember how much our mite will do, combined with the mites of lots of brothers and sisters, not just in "the mission field," but right next door and in our own pews.
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