Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B

Inspired by James 1:17-27

“If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1:26-27 (NRSV)

There are many ways in which our laws and cultures do not reflect godly living. Personal freedoms seem more important than personal morality, and greed is more important than charity.

Many Christians feel obligated to raise an outcry regarding these un-Christian values, but most of the condemnation is directed towards personal morality. Those who condemn laws that allow people to make lifestyle choices which contradict biblical teachings also demand deep cuts to be made to social programs designed to feed the poor and care for the sick. There is much shouting and very little listening, all in the name of God.

Christianity was never designed to be a political system; there will always be laws in place that contradict the will of the Lord. But just because something is permitted by the law of the land does not mean that Christians must practice it; we can remain ‘unstained’ by the world no matter how much immorality is legalized.

But we are also called to care for those in distress in every way that we can. If government programs support those goals, then we are called to support those programs. If the government does not do enough, then we are called to step in with our own resources and accomplish what the government failed to do.

Do you practice your religion by helping those in need? What choices can you make that help you to remain ‘unstained’ by the world while also caring for those in distress?

Let us pray. Compassionate Lord, you have always cared for ‘the least of these.’ Grant us a spirit of humility, that we may seek the wellbeing of others above our own opinions and comfort. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.