Doing Good (post preaching notes, James 2)

Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood recently turned 50 years old. I am a product of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood! As I prepared my sermon this past week, I played old episodes (what did we do before YouTube?) and relived many happy memories and comforts from my childhood. Mr. Rogers shared so often about loving our neighbors and helping them out! And we, of course, were treated as his neighbors; we felt like we were sitting there in his living room or at his kitchen table.

I shared on Sunday that Mr. Rogers understood this piece from James’ letter: Faith without works is dead. We spent quite a bit of time on what James must have meant in chapter 2, verse 17. And the crowd listening Sunday was no stranger to good works! I love hearing from my congregation about all of the things they do, not that they boast about those things. In fact, I often hear those stories months or years after they have already been serving in some unique way. James has a little to say about that–our motives–in chapter 3, but I’ll let Mark preach about that next week.

For now, I left you during our time Sunday with four questions to consider as you serve and give as Christians. These are drawn from scripture, as we consider what defines the good works or deeds James talks about.

  1. Are you serving with gentleness and humility? (I wonder why I can develop a bad habit quickly, yet these two things have to be a daily check for me. Why-why-why?!) As you help others and serve as one of those good neighbors, ask yourself how you are doing so. Unfortunately, life gives us plenty of opportunities to practice these two things.
  2. Are you serving out of love for God? This means asking ourselves why we are doing what we are doing (and sometimes why we are complaining doing it). If I find myself with a sour attitude and bitter heart, you can bet I’m doing it with motives that might look more like wanting to look good or playing the martyr. Instead, I should be serving because I want to do so, out of gratitude for what God has given me.
  3. Is the outcome to God’s glory? We’ve seen some great examples lately of wonderful successes (go Eagles) where gratitude was given to God because we simply can’t do any of it without God’s help. Being appreciated and complimented sure feels good. It is humbling too because God’s allowed us to achieve those successes by working through us.
  4. Do you need more convincing? We need to look no further than the news to remember no, we do not need more convincing–it’s as plain as it was in 1968 when Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood began. We have a lot to figure out about how to live together as neighbors. We aren’t doing so well at that lately. Keep reading scripture, praying for help, and serving–not because you have to, but because you want to.

Mr. Rogers quoted his mother, after one particularly dark time: “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” According to James, that’s being a good neighbor.