James 1:27 (CEB): True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties and to keep the world from contaminating us.
‘Keep the world from contaminating us.’ Many times, I’ve heard that to mean ‘sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll’ (or there abouts). But I don’t think that’s what St. James was getting at here. It’s seem pretty clear that ‘worldly corruption’ would be just the opposite of what St James admonished his audience - namely, not taking care of orphans and widows in their difficulties would be ‘worldly corruption’.
This is the same that Jesus talked about in his story in Matthew 25. A story that has it’s place of fulfillment with the lives of his contemporaries, but the message is clearly applicable for all generations. There, Jesus said:
Matthew 25:31-46 (CEB): “Now when the Human One comes in his majesty and all his angels are with him, he will sit on his majestic throne. All the nations will be gathered in front of him. He will separate them from each other, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right side. But the goats he will put on his left.
“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’
“Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Get away from me, you who will receive terrible things. Go into the unending fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels. I was hungry and you didn’t give me food to eat. I was thirsty and you didn’t give me anything to drink. I was a stranger and you didn’t welcome me. I was naked and you didn’t give me clothes to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and didn’t do anything to help you?’ Then he will answer, ‘I assure you that when you haven’t done it for one of the least of these, you haven’t done it for me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment. But the righteous ones will go into eternal life.”
From this story, we can clearly see that not helping ‘one of the least of these’ is true ‘worldly corruption.’ And you know what? We have been corrupted. All of us. The Psalmist wrote, ‘Everyone is corrupt’ (Psalm 14.3 CEB). None of us are exempt from this. Part of the human addiction is greed and selfishness. But Christ calls us to a different Way, his Way, the Way of the Human One, the Way of True Humanity.
The Gospel of Luke tells a story about this Way of Living:
A legal expert stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to gain eternal life?”
Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do you interpret it?”
He responded, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.”
But the legal expert wanted to prove that he was right, so he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied, “A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He encountered thieves, who stripped him naked, beat him up, and left him near death. Now it just so happened that a priest was also going down the same road. When he saw the injured man, he crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way. Likewise, a Levite came by that spot, saw the injured man, and crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way. A Samaritan, who was on a journey, came to where the man was. But when he saw him, he was moved with compassion. The Samaritan went to him and bandaged his wounds, tending them with oil and wine. Then he placed the wounded man on his own donkey, took him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day, he took two full days’ worth of wages and gave them to the innkeeper. He said, ‘Take care of him, and when I return, I will pay you back for any additional costs.’ What do you think? Which one of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered thieves?”
Then the legal expert said, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
‘Go and do likewise.’ Notice that this story is the response of practically living out the way of ‘eternal life’. Doing these things, living that type of life is the Way that leads to the Life of God (‘eternal life’).
St James admonition is to make sure that we are not corrupted into looking to ourselves only. The way to do that is to love God, love neighbors, and love enemies. And the practical outworking of ‘love’ is taking care of others, especially the poor, widowed, orphaned, the marginalized. We must ‘stop takin’ and start givin . . . lovin’ one another is the only thing real’ (Trevor Hall - Good Rain). It is in doing that - in living that Way - that we ‘gain eternal life’.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br Jack+, LC