In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
James 2:17 KJV
James 2:17 KJV
This post is the second in a three-part series.
Last week’s theme of the fig tree, continued: talking the talk of obedience is an important early step on the path to striving toward a Christ-like image in our lives. By walking the walk, however, we open the door for God to allow us to bear rich fruit.
Carefully read this week’s verse of Scripture, then zero in on the single word, “action.” Some English versions of the Bible translate that word as “works,” but actually when James the half-brother of Jesus penned his book in its original Hebrew language, the word he used here can also translate into our English equivalent of “fruit.”
In no way am I arguing for or against either translation, but “fruit” in the context of this week’s Scripture makes sense to me; it also sheds new light on this at-times controversial verse as well as last week’s reading (Mark 11:13-14,20). Faith and the bearing of fruit go hand-in-hand, but obedience forms a necessary conduit between the two. The Apostle Paul says that because Christ-followers “live in the Spirit,” we must also “keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). This living to which he refers is synonymous with our faith in the Son of God and His once-for-all atonement of our sins. Keeping in step displays the fruits that grow within us as we learn to walk in willful obedience to Jesus’ commands.
Consider as an example this true story. A race car driver’s perspective on life – and Jesus – changed in the blink of an eye when the driver survived a serious crash at Daytona. The image and lifestyle he worked so hard to build no longer fulfilled him; in fact he found himself in time heading with his wife to church more often than he headed to the track. Their pastor began visiting the couple’s home and on one occasion posed a direct question to him.
“Your car is sponsored by a beer company,” he observed. “Is that the image you want?” When the shock of the inquiry and the brief indignation that followed wore off, the driver found himself under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. No, the driver decided, that wasn’t the image he wanted. While he didn’t drink alcohol himself, he realized that by having this sponsor on a car – not to mention on his uniform – that adults and children alike looked at with eyes of wonder and admiration, he was bearing the wrong kind of fruit. He also began to wonder what kind of example his current lifestyle would set for his own child should he and his wife, after four miscarriages, finally have their prayers answered. How would he be able to accept a paycheck from a product he wanted his kids to absolutely avoid? To do so, he concluded, would make Dad a hypocrite.
The driver tried without success to convince his car’s owner to seek other sponsors. When the owner refused, the driver in obedience to God and commitment to principle left the team and accepted the fact that he would never race again. Imagine how he felt when an offer came just weeks later from another car owner. The driver took a deep breath and asked his first question – “Who’s the sponsor?” – and was amazed to learn he’d be driving a car covered with a household product’s logo. In a matter of a few short years with his new team, he came full circle from the crash that changed his life; he stood in Daytona’s Victory Lane. When he and his wife conceived twice, he gave up his career for good to, in his words, be a responsible steward of the gifts God had given him.
His faith fostered obedience to Christ, which in turn replaced the bad fruit he bore with good fruit on both a physical and spiritual level.
In light of his story, could we do another exercise for the coming week? Here’s the deal: for the next seven days we’ll pick one piece of fruit per day that flat needs to be out of our Christian lives. (Hint: If you can’t find a fruit to pick from your own tree, start with the one marked “pride.”) J As we discard piece by piece each fruit that needs to go, let’s ask Jesus – and expect by faith an answer – to grant us a new seed from the fruit of His Spirit. Then let’s purpose to stand in obedience to Him by planting, watering and nurturing that seed, letting it sprout in Son Light, and watching in humble wonder the miracle of fruit He produces in us.