Stop and thank God for being present with you today. Ask for God’s guidance as you hear God’s voice through scripture and the writer.
James 4:11-17 (NRSV)
Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.
Our congregation participates in several charitable events and programs throughout the year. Like many churches, we prepare food baskets for distribution to those in need at Easter and Thanksgiving. We help school children from low-income families by providing food during the summer and school supplies and shoes for the new school year. We also participate with other churches in our community in a program that assists with emergency needs—paying utility bills, rent, or food for families in crisis. A question that often arises is “How do we know who really deserves our help?” The question is usually driven by concern for stewardship—with limited resources, we feel the pressure of ensuring donations are spent wisely in order to help the greatest number of people. After much debate, we find no answers, but I think this passage speaks to the issue. We aren’t in a position to determine who “deserves” and who doesn’t. We cannot presume to know which people truly need help or which ones might be taking advantage of our generosity. All we can really do is use what we’ve been given in ways that we feel are right, asking God’s blessing on our efforts.
God of all, forgive us when we judge our neighbors, when we take on authority that belongs only to you. Help us to recognize and overcome our arrogance, opening our hearts and strengthening our bodies to do your will. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Go with God.