"Two Sides of the Same Coin," Sermon / Pr. Ted Giese / James 2:1–10, 14–18 / Sunday September 9th 2018: Season of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
(James 2:1–10, 14–18) My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which He has promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.
… What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday September 9th 2018: Season of Pentecost / James 2:1–10, 14–18 "Two Sides of the Same Coin"
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Saint James says, “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead,” James asks, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?” Here it seems like faith and works in the Christian life are pitted against each other in a fight. That is not so. The reason it looks like this is because on the one hand faith is invisible without works and on the other hand good works may be done without faith, this is often called civil righteousness where good works make you righteous in the eyes of men but not in the eyes of God, because they are done without faith and when scrutinized by God are deemed to be counterfeit by comparison to the works done in Christian faith. Here let me give you a concrete example to illustrate the relationship between faith and works in the life of a Christian.
Let’s say you came across a Canadian quarter laying tails side up, laying Caribou side up on the sidewalk. You bend down to pick it up … it’s your lucky day. But to your chagrin someone has played a bit of a prank on you. The quarter has been crazy glued to the concrete of the sidewalk. When you saw the quarter with its Caribou, tails side up, did you know what was on the other side? What was on the heads side of the coin? Yes you did? It’s the Queen, Elizabeth II, if it’s a very old coin maybe it would be her father or uncle but always on the one side the Crown.
In this example of the crazy glued quarter the visible Caribou points to the invisible Queen. Good works are like this, they are tangible, they point to faith, and they make faith visible. This analogy works because you have seen many quarters in your life and you know what each side looks like and you’re fairly confident that you could spot a counterfeit coin. All analogies eventually break down, this one would be no exception, yet in your life you have seen the Caribou of good works many times lived out in Christian faith under the crown of righteousness which is given by of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Like the coins you have witnessed faith in action and it made that faith visible to you, this is why faith and works are not fighting against each other, they are two sides of the same coin.
Take that quarter again, if someone had done something to obscure the Caribou making it impossible to make out and the quarter was crazy glued to the cement in the same fashion and you walked along looking at the sidewalk first you may miss it altogether and second if you did make it out you might not be sure of what was on the other side of the coin … is it really a quarter or is it counterfeit. Take heart a quarter has two sides and a coin for real legal tender doesn’t have the same thing on both sides. This is likewise true for you – you have your works and you have your faith.
Jesus puts it like this, Jesus says, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the Vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I Am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”
Is the branch a branch on the Vine if it bears no fruit? Fruit and branch, Caribou and Queen – Vine and Quarter; they go together. The big question is what saves you. First you would have no God pleasing works without faith. Works are a by-product of faith so the one who is saved has both works and faith but the works alone don’t save. Works without faith are only honoured by the World while works with faith are honoured by God and depending on the state of the World might also be honoured by man but there is no guarantee of that for there are times when the World is wicked and set against God and what He honours.
What does Saint Paul say about faith, “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” If your Christian life was a car cruising down the highway, works ride shotgun in the drive of faith and Christ Jesus is at the wheel. For this reason your works can not claim to have driven you to the final destination of faith, your works were simply along for the ride in your Christian life in Christ Jesus. Your good works are there for the benefit of your neighbour, for the good of others. You need not do them for yourself.
One last thought for you today: A quarter might not mean much to “a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing” who comes into our church, but it certainly means more to “a poor man in shabby clothing” who comes into our church. This is Saint James’ language here, but I think you understand; whether someone is financially poor or rich, whether someone is spiritually poor or rich in faith either way if they have the eyes of faith they will see the value of the whole quarter, the Caribou and Queen, the works and the faith. Whether someone is financially poor or rich, whether someone is spiritually poor or rich in faith either way they will have ears to hear the Words of Faith and a by the grace of God the tongue to sing God’s praises when they have been on the receiving end of Good works fueled by Faith in Christ Jesus. The dead man cannot hear, and will only hear, will only see if Christ Jesus by the Holy Spirit gives ear to hear and eyes to see. Therefore we do not do our work for praise, we do it to point to Jesus that He would be praised and that His heavenly Father, our heavenly Father in Baptism would receive the praise do His name.
Trust that Jesus has saved you by His cross and passion by His death and resurrection and then freely work the works “which God prepared beforehand, that [you] should walk in them.” For you “are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,” in Christ the die is cast for the coin, and in baptism - in the Word of God on your heart, by His command, with the Water - the coin is struck, you have been minted for a purpose, you are part of an economy of good works and faith, that adds up to more than you know.
Saint James says, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” This Saturday we have our clothing give away. We have put the word out and people have been prompted to look through their clothing and find what they have that they do not need and then bring it here. This week we will organize and prepare the donations so that they will be easily looked through. We have invited people who may need the clothing; we will even provide some food for those who want it. In small ways and large ways each of you have contributed to supporting this work, we do it in faith and we pray that it points not to us but to the one who mints the coin, that the Caribou of this work would point to the Crown of faith and the one who gives that Crown Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 John 15:4-6
 Ephesians 2:8–9
 Ephesians 2:10
 2 Timothy 4:8