Put them all together and what do you have? An Andre Agassi television commercial. If you can remember that far back, Andre Agassi promoted Canon Cameras (not to be confused with Candid Cameras).
Do you remember the tagline of every commercial? (No fair peeking at the title in the video!) Image is everything.
But is image everything—and what is the image we’re talking about?
That, my friends, is the topic of our daily Bible conversation!
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Ezekiel 39:1-40:27. In chapter 40, Ezekiel begins his longest vision, which extends through chapter 48. When God gave him the vision, Jerusalem and the temple had been destroyed 12 years earlier.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
Andre Agassi embodied the “Image is everything” moniker. In his 2009 autobiography, Agassi admitted that his trademark mullet was a wig and his ex-wife Brooke Shields was a “trophy wife” that made him look good. He also admitted that he tested positive for methamphetamine use while portraying himself as the innocent, fun-loving, Bible-quoting tennis player (at least earlier in his career).
In today’s reading, James the brother of Jesus writes,
Someone may well say, ‘You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works’…For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead (James 2:18, 26).
Western Christianity has successfully divorced faith from works. We believe that image is everything. It’s the thought that counts. What we do isn’t as important as what we believe.
But take a close look at James’ words. I don’t know about you, but they make me extremely uncomfortable.
James is saying that we live what we believe. If you want to know what you believe, look at how you live. Frankly, James’ words tempt me not to look at my life. Sometimes I prefer denial over truth.
James is trying to free people from beliefs that exist in the mind but not in the heart. He explains,
If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? (James 2:15–16)
What implications does this hold? Christianity is not a faith that is consumed but never shared. Nor is it a system of beliefs that resides only in our heads. Christianity is a faith that is worked out in our everyday lives. Paul wrote, “For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:20).
“For God so loved the world that he gave” (John 3:16).
Floyd McClung put it in very practical terms: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Throughout my life, I’ve successfully mastered the “faith” part and failed miserably on the “works” part. I’m not saying I lived like hell, but my acts of compassion didn’t measure up to the faith I proclaimed.
Recently, however, I’ve discovered that generosity opens people’s hearts. The church Eugene and I pastor have begun serving the school where we meet with acts of kindness. Their response has been overwhelming. We began by offering to help needy families in the school, and now the school is calling us when they need help. We don’t proclaim our faith in the school hallways, but our works are validating what we believe. I’m also witnessing staff people lowering their guard and sharing their faith journeys with me. I, along with the rest of our church, are astounded that we’re making a difference.
Bring faith and works together and God will change the world through you.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- Which tends to be stronger for you–faith or works? What does this say about you?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.