Sharing with the vulnerable is the topic of our lesson today. The text for this study is from the book of James and the book of Exodus.
Both books address that we should help the most vulnerable people in society and give to the needs of widows, orphans, and strangers. These represent the most powerless and vulnerable people in biblical times. Yet, even in our prosperous country, many widows, orphans, and strangers exist.
James names brothers or sisters who lack clothing and are hungry.
Moses specifically names widows, orphans, and strangers.
These individuals—ones that we see and hear about every day—are vulnerable.
It is essential to grasp the needs of those in our community—especially brothers and sisters in Christ. It is important to share with those in need.
They are—believers and non-believers—who do not have an understanding of God's Word.
Many may think or assume they know, but they miss God's blessings because they have not been taught or have not taken the time to understand Christ's message.
Jesus spent His entire ministry teaching. He healed many, but His primary objective was to teach people how to live. Jesus could have performed miracles by feeding the people just as He did the 5,000 and the 3,000. He could have gone from town-to-town healing people until He had healed them all.
Even though Jesus fed and healed thousands, He did not see this as His primary mission. Instead, he saw teaching as His ministry.
The ancient saying applies here: "I can give you a fish and feed you for a day, or I can teach you to fish and feed you for a lifetime."
Jesus wanted people to have more than food for a day.
Understanding truth is especially true concerning spiritual things.
Yes, there are immediate needs, and we should address the needs by sharing them with the vulnerable people in our community.
Let's read James and Moses's advice for the people during their day and what they have for us today:
14 "What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don't show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, "Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well"—but then you don't give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?
17 So, you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless."
Remember, this is Jesus' brother, James, writing to the people of his day. James did not believe in Jesus while Jesus walked the earth teaching, performing miracles, and healing people.
But now, James has stepped up and taken a strong stand on faith. He teaches what faith means and how a believer may demonstrate his faith.
James told his people that it is good to have faith but so much better to demonstrate your faith. You can sit at home with a truckload of faith, but your faith does no one any good until you get up off your duff and show your faith in the actions you take. Yes, your faith is beneficial to you, but it must be demonstrated with action so that your faith benefits your neighbor. As it is said,
"Action speaks louder than words!"
James went further. He thought it impossible that someone could genuinely have saving faith and not show it in their works. Likewise, a person could say he has faith but fail to show his
faith through good works.
So, a valid question is: Can that kind of faith save him?
Also, does your faith help or influence anyone while you sit at home claiming to have faith? Inaction is like lighting a candle and hiding it under a basket. The light benefits no one.
James did not contradict the Apostle Paul, who insisted that we are saved, not of works (Ephesians 2:9). James merely clarifies the kind of faith that saves us. The grace of God through faith saved us—not our works. Good works accompany saving faith.
Paul also understood the necessity of works to prove our faith's character. Paul wrote, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand
that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).
Part of the great commandment is to love your neighbor. Of what value is it to say you love your neighbor and never demonstrate your love? Only when you get off your duff and show your love for your neighbor does it benefit him. Get active is what James is encouraging his readers to do—demonstrate your faith through your actions. And an excellent place to start is by sharing with those in need.
James uses the example of encountering a brother or sister who is hungry and without proper clothing. Mere words do nothing for their situation. Merely telling them to have a good day and
stay warm does not demonstrate your love for them or that your faith benefits anyone. It only shows that your faith is dead. It does not exist.
Genuine faith, and the works that accompany it, are not only spiritual things but also a concern for the most basic needs – such as shelter, clothing, and food. When needs arise, we should
sometimes pray less and simply do more to help the person in need. Praying is not a substitute for action.
The best course of action is to pray while attending to their needs.
"You're pretending to have faith, while you have no works of love or mercy, is utterly hollow and empty. Faith is a principle in the mind, and another person cannot discern another's thoughts. But your effort of good work speaks loudly and clearly. It leaves no doubt that you have faith.
It is faith that not only hears the word of God but does it, as in Matthew 7:24. James uses two examples—Abraham and Rehab. Both demonstrated their living faith by their actions.
21 "You must not mistreat or oppress foreigners in any way. Remember, you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.
22 "You must not exploit a widow or an orphan. 23 If you exploit them in any way and they cry out to me, then I will certainly hear their cry. 24 My anger will blaze against you, and I will kill you with the sword. Then your wives will be widows and your children fatherless.
Moses saw this as a good measure of our moral character in how we treat strangers. People often find it easy to treat their own flesh and blood well, but God commands us to have equal
concern for a stranger.
Do we treat friends in our little group well but extend a cold shoulder to visitors? It happens.
If we stay with our own safe group, enjoy all the blessings, and fail to reach out to the stranger, we mistreat the stranger.
Here Moses was talking to the Israelites. Israel's own experience of being strangers should have given them appropriate sympathy for strangers in their midst.
We all have gone into a new city, neighborhood, church, and Sunday school class, and were strangers.
How did you feel? How did the people react to you?
God told Moses to tell the Israelites that they should in no way exploit the widow or an orphan. He would hear their cry, and His anger would blaze against them. The widow and the fatherless
child were the community's weakest and most vulnerable members. They were not to take advantage of them but to share with the vulnerable.
John gave us the true litmus test for our relationships with neighbors and strangers. "If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother" (1 John 4:20-21).
Go and demonstrate your faith by sharing with the vulnerable.