Let us pray: Dear Savior, we know that true love will always find ways to show itself. We know that a loving heart will reveal itself in kind deeds, caring words, and compassionate thoughts. Since you have given us Your total and complete love by pouring it into our hearts, we ask that You also move us to let our faith and generosity show itself to all we meet and in all we do. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR LOVING LORD AND SAVIOR
TEXT: James 2: 1-5, 8-10, 14-18
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Twins have always intrigued me. When I went to school as a child there were two sets of twins in our class—Jill and Jolene Becker and Lynn and Larry Kodet. The Kodet boys were not identical twins they were fraternal twins. Hence, we could always tell them apart. But the Becker girls looked exactly alike, talked exactly alike, and for many years they dressed exactly alike. To this day, I still think they occasionally played pranks on the rest of us by trading places on occasion. With time they grew distinctive both in their dress and their looks. But I’d bet $100 that now, almost 50 years later, they still share similar thoughts and emotions. That’s how close their lives were intertwined.
Aside from a few sets of twins within our congregation, what about the rest of you? Have you ever thought about the fact that Jesus Christ is your exact twin? He has felt every pain you’ll ever feel. He has been tempted by every sin that will ever seek to dominate you. He has even died your death and arisen from your grave. Yes, He is our perfect, your perfect Twin!
In our lesson today, the Apostle James reminds us that because of Christ’s love implanted in our hearts via baptism, we’re all carrying twins inside. So, let’s now examine:
THE CHRISTIAN’S TWINS: FAITH AND GENEROSITY
Let me ask those of you who are parents: Is it proper to favor one of your children more than another? And to those of you who aren’t parents: How do you feel when you see favoritism being shown by your friends or relatives when it comes to one of their kids? Let’s take it a step further. Perhaps when you were growing up you felt, or feel, that your brother or sister received special attention and you didn’t? If so, didn’t it cause a rift in the family? And didn’t that rift cause some of the love and closeness that families cherish—didn’t it cause some of that love to become tarnished?
So, too, when it comes to the Christian Twins of Faith and Generosity. They must exist in harmony, or strife will ensue. They must be given equal attention, or both will wither and slowly fade away.
James is addressing a perennial problem not only in God’s church but in every human relationship when he writes: “As believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?…What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?”
Let’s be honest, all of us practice discrimination. We like to hang out with physically attractive people because it makes us feel attractive, too. We like to cultivate rich or powerful friends because it makes us feel rich and powerful. However, if Jesus did that—where would any of us be? We’re all unattractive sinners in His sight. None of “loves our neighbor as much as we love ourselves.” And since Jesus is our ultimate neighbor, our haughty spirit divorces us from Him.
Ah, but His love for us is greater than our human abilities to cozy up to Him. He gave His life for us on the cross. He saved our souls even though we didn’t ask Him to. And then, because of His boundless love for us, He implanted saving faith into our hearts, thereby linking us to His heart! And the moment He did that, such God-wrought faith gave birth to generosity inside each of us. Yes, at that moment, when you and I came to saving faith: the Christian Twins of Faith and Generosity were born!
So, if these two twin children live within you, why would you ever want to slight one over and against the other? Christian generosity isn’t about merely giving to the food pantry, or putting an offering in the plate on Sunday morning. No, Christ expects of you a generous nature, a heart which is inclined toward reaching out and in some manner helping anyone and everyone who crosses your path. At church that means never letting a visitor stand alone. It means putting yourself out by leaving the comfy confines of friends or relatives in the social hall and making a new friend of someone you’ve never met. At work it means being receptive to the emotional needs of those who are hurting.—And unless you get to know them, you’ll never know they’re hurting, will you? At home, generosity takes on many forms.—From letting your sister watch her TV show instead of the one that you’re interested in, to cleaning your room without having to be told, to saying: “It’s o.k. mom, I know you’re tired, so I’ll forego you driving me over to Jimmy’s house, we’ll just hang out here together tonight.” The credo of Christian generosity is: What can I do for someone else; not: what’s in it for me? In short, generosity is nothing more and nothing less than: “Loving your neighbor as yourself.”
We Christians love to talk about our faith. We Lutherans prize faith above all else. For faith is our link to Christ. It’s the one thing that no one can take away. And yet, James says: “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by actions, is dead.”
Do any of you want to kill the Christian Twins that you’re carrying? We know that abortion of little babies is a sin. But what about aborting the Godly gift of either faith or generosity? Isn’t that a sin, too? Isn’t it a sin against both God and yourself?
Parents of twins like to say that they are “doubly blest.” Well, since God has given us the spiritual twins of faith and generosity, I guess that means that each of us is doubly blest, too. So, don’t prevent either child from giving you and everyone you meet the blessing of lasting joy! Amen