(Christian Today posted an article about 5 Scriptures that most pastors won’t tackle from the pulpit. I decided that see if I could. This is number 2 of the 5 Scritpures from their article, which you can read here.)
There are some passages that are routinely passed over in favour of those Scriptures, but we want to change that. If “All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in all righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)” then there shouldn’t be any Scripture that isn’t covered from the pulpit. And that includes James 2:26.
So, let’s talk about it.
“As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” – James 2:26
Honestly, I don’t understand why this would ever make a list of Scripture that would not be preached on. But it is. This whole series is based on an article from Christian Today, and even they are confused by this. It doesn’t make sense for pastors to avoid this verse.
Rather than tell you ways to preach about this, rather than exegete this verse, I’m just going to share why this verse shouldn’t be swept under the rug or “explained away.” Because I believe that this verse is quite self-explanatory.
(If you really need someone to exegete this for you, here it goes. Christian faith is dead unless your belief in the resurrected Jesus moves you to live differently. Your Christian faith should provoke you to live out the commandment of Jesus, love God and love your neighbour. This may take different forms, but in whatever form it does take, it is a deed. It is an action. If your life is not being transformed by the life and teaching of Jesus, you are not actually trusting or believing in Jesus. Or as James said, faith without deeds is dead. Or no faith at all.)
1. It’s Scripture
What good reason is there for not preaching Scripture? Honestly, why do we skip over particular verses, like Matthew 1:1-17 or James 2:26, or any of the upcoming 3 portions of Scripture?
I can think of a few reasons why pastors do this, they aren’t good reasons, but they are reasons for not doing. Here they are, in no particular order.
a. I don’t know what that means, so I’ll skip it.
b. I don’t have time to study/research that, so I’ll just move onto something else I already know.
c. I don’t have any books/commentaries/resources to help me prepare for a sermon on this, so I just won’t do one on this verse.
d. I don’t like what this verse is implying/this verse contradicts my beliefs/this verse convicts me, so I will avoid it.
Here is the kicker. It doesn’t matter what your reason is for not preaching on these verses (although these are excuses, really). It is Scripture. Whatever it is, how ever strange or bizarre or wrapped up in ancient culture a verse of the Bible is it is worth giving your time, effort, and energy because it is the God-breathed, HOLY BIBLE! It is is convicting you or challenging you, it is worth looking at or examining that much more, because that verse has the power to help you grow, and by extension your congregation.
In the 21st century, with the Internet, with books in limitless supply, there is almost no excuse that you cannot get or find resources to help you prepare a fully researched and studied sermon. If you want to say that you have no time, then we have an issue of stewardship on our hands. But that isn’t a reason to skip preaching on any given piece of Scripture.
To start avoiding or “cutting out” by omission is to start saying that things that God deemed as important and worthy of passing done are worthless. Ask yourself, do you really feel that way about Scripture?
2. This Is Missions/Evangelism Focused Gold
My spiritual gifting or spiritual office is not primarily evangelical or missions focused. That doensn’t mean that I don’t value evangelism or missions, only that it isn’t my strength or where I feel the Lord leading me in ministry.
If evangelism or missions was your strength, your spiritual gifting, or spiritual office, I do not know how you could possibly avoid this Scripture. As I quickly explained, James 2:26 pushes us to take our faith in Jesus and live it out. We have to take the teachings of Jesus and act them out in the world, whether it is by showing love or displaying forgiveness.
As a pastor, if you were gifted in missions or evangelism, or God was pressing on your heart the need to move the church from the pews into the world, how could you not preach this verse?
It cuts to the quick. It stabs you right in the heart, demanding that you take stock of your faith and your actions. Not just of the individual either, but also of the church as a whole.
I used as the title of this section, James 2:26 is missions and evangelism gold. How could you not preach this?
There are some passages that are routinely passed over in favour of those Scriptures, but we want to change that. We do believe that “All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in all righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)”. And that includes James 2:26.
Those are just a few reasons as to why this verse is worth preaching and talking about from this often skipped portion of Scripture. Hopefully it will not stay that way.