I’ve read James’s famous discourse about faith and works many times. It’s an absolute classic. If you haven’t read it, check out James 2:14-26.
This classic discourse on faith and works has always been one of my favorites. Yet in one reading not too long ago a new interpretation of these verses came to me. I saw them as I had never seen them before. And this new interpretation makes an absolutely classic discourse even more classic.
What did I see? Many singles leaders, especially those serving on stake committees, confine their responsibilities to planning activities. They believe filling blank spaces in a calendar is the extent of their responsibility. If any of the singles they claim to be serving have legitimate needs, these leaders believe that the Lord will somehow provide for them. Their job is just to provide a program.
Yet simply filling blanks in a calendar is very much like faith without works. They’re both dead.
“What doth it profit?”
I love how James opens his remarks about faith and works. He describes someone without clothes and starving who is told to be “warm and filled” yet not given clothes or food. Then James asks, “What doth it profit?”
Obviously, nothing. And that same answer remains when the same question is posited about the attitude of many single leaders who think their only job is to plan activities. OK, you planned all these great activities. Now, what does that mean to the single adult who grieves over the death of a loved one? Or how about that newly divorced single who still feels the death of a marriage that was thought to last forever? What about the LDS single struggling with issues of identity after losing a job?
Just calendaring events isn’t going to mean anything to any LDS singles who have real needs in the real world. So what does it profit that you planned all these activities? Just as well wishes will never clothe and feed naked, starving people, so filling blanks in a calendar will never by itself meet the needs of LDS singles.
“Justified by works”
Yes, you can shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works” (James 2:18) Action is what brings real change into the lives of people. And action comes through works, not just faith.
True, faith in its pure and true form will lead to action. But faith without action means nothing. To meet the needs of the people, we must act. You can show me your faith that the Lord will provide for the needs of LDS singles without you lifting even one finger to act in that direction, and in return I will show you my faith that the Lord will provide for the needs of LDS singles by working myself to meet what needs I can.
I love the example James provides in Abraham. He produced works in offering his only son Isaac upon the altar, works motivated by faith. And through those works, his faith was perfected.
In like manner, singles leaders who focus mainly on filling a calendar see singles activities as an end in themselves. But the truth is just the reverse; activities are the means to the end of meeting the needs of the people. Activities provide the platform from which leaders and individual LDS singles can minister to the singles in their midst. And in so doing, their faith becomes perfected through their works.
“The body without the spirit is dead”
James provides the perfect ending to his classic discourse on faith and works with a simple analogy involving the body and the spirit. The body dies once the spirit departs. In like manner, faith dies once the works that should attend it cease.
Also in like manner, singles groups can feel absent of life when leaders focus primarily on filling blanks in a calendar. These leaders often wonder why attendance is so small and what can be done to turn things around. We talked last week how to turn ailing singles programs around, but a key part of that transformation is the necessity for leaders to adopt the attitude we are discussing here and now.
You must do more than just fill a calendar. You must fill your hearts with compassion and extend your hands to those you serve. You must focus on using the activities you plan as a means to the end of ministering to them and helping to meet their needs. When you do, you’ll inject life into your singles groups and light into your own life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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