James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Jeremiah 22:3 “This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”
As Americans, we like to proclaim ourselves a Christian nation. But printing “One Nation Under God” on the currency that drives our entire society certainly doesn’t buy our way into eternity. We bow down to the dollar and worship in the sanctuary of comfort, all while telling ourselves Jesus hates religion and asks only for a personal relationship. Somewhere along the way, we’ve rationalized our selfishness through biblical jargon and lost sight of the fact that salvation requires sacrifice.
Jesus doesn’t hate religion, he hates sinfulness that disguises itself as worship. The Pharisees used their faith as a means to gain power and judge others; the American Church uses modern Christianity to justify laziness and selfish generosity. James clearly states that the purest form of the Christian religion requires constant action and diligence. “Religion” isn’t wrong, we just simply don’t want to do it.
The Lord (via James and Jeremiah) calls for direct action. Preaching about the Good Samaritan or tweeting about the African famine crisis carries no significance or value unless it’s followed with actual giving and sacrifice. Yes, I’m a broke college student who works three jobs and still finds myself wishing I had a little more money to survive on. But if I’m completely honest with myself? I didn’t need that Chick-fil-A milkshake for lunch, and the three dollars I spent could have instead purchased a week’s worth of food for an African family.
That’s not to say we can’t enjoy the things God has blessed us with, or occasionally treat ourselves to something nice. Instead we need to recognize that God HAS blessed us, because every physical gift–including money–comes from above (James 1:17). And since it’s ultimately His to begin with, we should be just as willing to give. After all, besides the designer clothes, nice cars, and comfortable houses that we enjoy, Jesus gave us His life. And He didn’t die only for the American church, but for each and every person who has walked this earth. The rich and poor, the fat and starving, the Jew and Gentile… All of whom are our brothers and sisters in Christ, whom we are called to love and serve both freely and selflessly.
Maybe it’s not so shocking that Stephen Colbert teaches Sunday School, after all.
-Lauren White, Senior Telecounselor