By Jim West, Lead Pastor, Colonial Presbyterian Church, Kansas City, Missouri
Lord, thank you for the life-changing power of your Word. Help me to obey your Word, so that my ways may please you and lead others to you.
But someone will say, “One person has faith, another has actions.” My answer is, “Show me how anyone can have faith without actions. I will show you my faith by my actions.”
I love to garden. I grow vegetables. I’m not great at it, but I’ve had a garden for the better part of 20 years in the three towns where we’ve lived during that time. Gardening can teach you a lot about life, and I think some of that learning applies to this verse from James 2.
When I say, “I love to garden,” the mere statement invites you to look at the garden in my back yard. Should you walk into my yard and see a plot filled with weeds and no prospering vegetable plants, you might look at me with a raised eyebrow and wonder, “This guy doesn’t seem to love gardening as much as he claims to.” If I love gardening, then my garden plot should reflect my love – weeds are plucked, plants are watered, well-trimmed, and bearing fruit. If my plot is well-tended, my statement regarding my love of gardening is congruent. However, if my garden plot is a neglected mess, then my claim to love gardening is an empty boast or at best an example of self-deception.
I believe this is the point being made by James in the focus Scripture. Many people of faith claim to love God and their neighbor. They speak of their faith as though it is a foregone conclusion that believing in God means they love their neighbor. But where is the evidence of that love? What does our “spiritual garden” look like?
The “fruit” of our faith should bless people and bring glory to God. Just like working a garden, the production of spiritual and relational fruit will require planning, investment, and effort. “Love” for anything—in the truest sense of the word—always requires sacrifice. Jesus showed us what true love looks like.
How did Jesus express his faith in the Father and his love for us? By serving himself and saying nice words? On the contrary, he prioritized his life, time, resources, and passion to serve the needs of others, even to the extent of sacrificing his own life. His garden was exceptional.
If we ask the Father, he will show us ways that we can put our love into action, beginning with our own families, our neighbors, and those whom God places along our path. Gardens require a little “love” every day to bear fruit. Your family, your neighbors, and our city require the same.
This week, begin to practice ways to show love to others. You could introduce yourself to a few neighbors and ask how you might pray for them. You may call someone who lives alone to see how he or she is doing. Perhaps you could invite to dinner people who are struggling financially. Consider going beyond your immediate neighborhood to show Christ’s love wherever there is a need.
Father, show me how to love my family, friends and neighbors in ways that mirror your love for me. Give me courage to do whatever it takes to bear good fruit for your kingdom.