James Chapter 2: The $100 Idea

At our Friday lunch discussion of James 2 one of our members presented us with a great idea.

Brooks' idea was simple:  Put a $100 bill in your pocket and give it to someone in need.  Brooks did not take credit for the idea. He said that he had seen somewhere where some guy had already begun doing this idea.  Wherever the idea originated it was inspired.  It very well could have been inspired by the 2nd chapter of the book of James.

When Brooks first presented our group with this idea we were nearing the end of our discussion of James 2 and I thought that I could pinpoint the verse that had prompted this idea. The first verse that came to mind was James 2: 14, "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?". When I got home and looked for the exact verse my eye settle on the second half of James 2: 18, "Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do." After seeing that I was not so sure which verse had inspire the $100 idea so, I reread all of the 2nd chapter of James.  I realized that the whole chapter was the inspiration for the $100 idea.

The first part of James 2, verses 1-13, talk about how we should not treat people differently because of their position in life.  We should not chose to judge a wealthy person as being more worthy of our attention or shun a poor person.  If you look at verses 8-13 as a separate message from the first seven verses, the message is clearly that it is no defense when you sin to say "I kept all of Gods laws but one."  If you don't commit adultery but, you murder someone, you have still broken the law.  

Verses 1-13 seem like unlikely candidates for inspiring the $100 idea.  At first, that is what I thought but I realized that I was not seeing the bigger picture.  We discussed the $100 idea for a while and determined that if each of us decides to do this idea, we should pray continually for God's guidance in determining who we should give the $100 bill to.  Brooks suspected, I think correctly, that praying to God about who to give the $100 bill to will open our eyes to people that we may not have even seen before.  I think that we all kind of figure that God will lead us to a poor person in need but by praying about the decision, we are taking our personal judgement out of the equation.  If we choose to do this project and we do it right, we will not be directing where the $100 bill goes, God will. So that is how the first seven versus have inspired the $100 idea:  We will not be treating the wealthy man or woman any better than we will be treating the poor man or woman.  If we figured correctly - that God is likely to lead us to a less wealthy person, then we will be treating the less wealthy person better than a wealthy person. Verses 8-13 talk about keeping all of God's laws and not just all but one.  While James talks specifically about God's commands forbidding adultery and murder, I think we can agree that "Do unto others as you would have them do to you"- the Golden Rule - is certainly one of those rules that God directs us to live by.  If you were in need, wouldn't it be great if someone just handed you a $100 bill?

The latter part of the 2nd chapter of James, verses 14-26, are clear direction for starting a project like the $100 idea.  Those verses are dedicated to making the case that acting upon your faith is necessary for your faith to be real.  We cannot work our way to heaven but if we have bought into Christianity, we will act like Christians and that does not mean just resisting temptation.  It also means taking an active role in treating others well and helping those in need wherever we find those people.  

The Second Chapter of the book of James

This Friday our mentoring group will be examining the 2nd chapter of James.  Two weeks ago I did some quick analysis of the first chapter prior to our group's discussion and realized that I could have done a better job had I waited and considered the thoughts of the other members of our mentoring group.  I look forward to our discussion this Friday and plan to provide commentary sometime after I have had a chance to reflect on our discussion.

To review a complete NIV version of James 2 click anywhere on this sentence.