Today we were driving to the shops, and my daughter said, “Oh no! Someone left their Old McDonald’s wrapper ON THE GROUND!”
“That’s not good, is it, honey? People should pick up their rubbish,” I said.
“I know!” she said immediately. “We could have a garbage hunt!”
And so – when the weather improves – we plan on having a garbage hunt. Walking around our neighbourhood with a garbage bag, picking up all the rubbish we find.
I don’t know if this is something they’ve done at school before, but I’m fairly certain her teacher has talked to her class about the environmental impacts of leaving your rubbish lying around. She has come home from school before talking to me about how rubbish that washes into the water ways can cause fish to choke and die.
And just the other day we were walking back to the car and she stopped to pick up someone’s empty juice popper “so we can put it in the bin at home”.
For her, it is so simple… Rubbish pollutes the world, so we should pick up rubbish and put it in the bin.
Belief = action.
We call this integrity, when a persons actions match their beliefs.
But I don’t think it’s so simple for adults.
We know that littering is bad for the environment, yet most of us would quite happily walk past someone else’s rubbish because we don’t want to touch it or be seen touching it or it’s not our fault.
Our actions don’t match our beliefs.
The other day, while I was having an internal ultrasound, I had the opportunity to explain the gospel to a stranger – the ultrasound technician (now, don’t tell me you find it uncomfortable to talk about your faith…).
He asked what the difference between Catholics and Protestants was, and I proceeded to explain that the main difference is that Protestants believe that the only way to be saved is by having faith in God, not your own good works.
This is the good news of the gospel – that salvation is a gift, from start to finish, and there is nothing we can do to contribute to that.
It’s very good news, but it does cause problems with our human nature.
Because some of us hear that and think, Great! I will just trust in Jesus and then get on with my life, doing whatever I please, because I am saved anyway!
This is why James needed to write in the Bible:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Yes, faith in God is all we need to be saved. James is not arguing that our good deeds somehow contribute to our salvation, like an add-on to faith. Rather, he is saying that deeds are the evidence of faith.
We can’t say that we have real faith – a living faith – if we don’t act on it.
If we say we believe that Jesus is the Lord and the only way to God, but we don’t worship him, our faith is dead.
If we say we believe that only those who trust in Jesus will go to heaven and everyone else will go to hell, but we don’t tell people about Him, our faith is dead.
If we say we believe that living life God’s way is best, but we don’t obey him, our faith is dead.
Faith without action is nothing.
In fact, it’s worse than nothing – it’s hypocrisy.
Maybe we have something to learn from children here.
They have no gap between their beliefs and their actions.
Let’s have a real, live faith.
A child-like faith.
A faith that cannot help but act.