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If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet do not give them what is necessary for their body, what good is that? (James 2:15-16)
When James says naked, he does not necessarily mean they are nude. The Greek word (γυμνός gumnos) here means that they are inadequately clothed, needing more clothes. Moreover, the Greek does not even have to mean lacking clothing. It can also mean low-quality clothing, needing better clothing, which conveys the idea of being naked. James is giving the Christians a strong, straightforward example. If a person can help within their hand but only offers kind words, thoughts, or wishes, this is nothing more than derision and disdain and can exacerbate the pain of the one suffering. (Compare Proverbs 3:27-28.) So too, a Christian who claims he has faith, but that faith has done nothing and has not had any real-life effect on his life, nor does it motivate anyone else to faith. It is simply worthless. This so-called Christian would say to an impoverished brother or even an unbeliever, “may God bless you,” or “let me pray with you,” or “I wish you well,” or “go in peace,” leaving the practical help to another, has no real brotherly love or kindness. Likewise, this person has no genuine faith. It is an empty faith, making outsiders think his God is as worthless as he is, bringing reproach on God. Is this person an example of true Christianity? Is this person an example of following Christ? The comparison in 2:15-16 is very apparent and stunning. The sense is that faith without the actions that should go with it, which would provoke and inspire, is cold, heartless, lacking meaning, and useless.
James has just got through asking the question as to whether faith that has no works is a saving faith or not. James now will give an example to answer his question as to whether saving faith produces no good works (results). James gives them a hypothetical situation of a brother or sister is naked and lacking daily food. The individual lacks clothing and daily food. In other words, the individual did not have the essentials of life. The Jews would have known from the Old Testament about the importance and the necessity of showing hospitality. It was written in Leviticus 19:9-10, “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not completely reap the edges of your field, neither shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. And you shall not glean your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am Jehovah your God.” James does not describe how this brother or sister got into the condition in which they found themselves, but merely gives the reality of the situation.
James unfolds the situation’s progression and says one of you says to them, go in peace. Now the problem with what is happening here is that the Christians saying go in peace, be warmed, and filled, were content with just lip service. The problem is that what they were saying to the individual needed to be supported by actions. True faith would not just have said go in peace because how could this person honestly go in peace when they were daily worrying about how to keep warm and be fed. There would have been daily anxiety and fear of not knowing where the next meal would come from or how to stay warm. Genuine faith not only expresses kind wishes to the individual in need but takes action to see those needs come true.
These believers saying be warmed were telling the individual to do something that they could not do on their own. This individual they said to keep warm would benefit nothing from their merely good wishes. Real faith would not just make good wishes to keep warm but seek the resources to help the individual to keep warm. The whole point in the person coming to these believers was to try to get warm, and mere lip service does nothing without being accompanied by actions that would have enabled the individual to be warm and fed.
One more time, we see that simple words are meaningless in this situation, for how can one be filled if he has no means of which to be filled. You will note that the word “be” is used twice in this passage when James says to be warmed and be filled. Craig L. Blomberg and Mariam J. Kamell write, “In effect, the believer confronted with the needy brother or sister pronounces a blessing on the poor person. They clearly show they understand the needs by declaring, ‘be warm and filled’ (θερμαίνεσθε καὶ χορτάζεσθε), but there appears an extreme contrast between their words and their inaction. These two verbs are either middle (‘warm yourselves and fill yourselves’) or passive (‘be warmed and be filled’). If middle, the insult to the poor person merely becomes even more outrageous. If passive, then how did the person in a position to help think the poor person would receive aid? Laws suggests that ‘this use of the passive to express hope should further be understood as a reverential periphrasis: the hope is not simply that somehow or other these wants will be supplied, but that God will supply them.’ Johnson replies, ‘It is not the form of the statement that is reprehensible, but its functioning as a religious cover for the failure to act.’ And this is what angers James: the more well-to-do believer does not take care of the physical needs of the other despite all their spoken good wishes.” Here again, real saving faith in this context would seek to get the individual the food they needed or try to get them filled somehow.
It is for this reason that James says and yet do not give them what is necessary for their body, what good is that? James has given his readers a compelling example. Kind words and best wishes ring hollow when they are not supplemented by physical aid when he can help materially. In fact, this is ridiculously inadequate and does nothing but generate more heartache and pain for the one suffering. The result is, one with this so-called faith, which does nothing to bring any kind of relief to those in need, nor at least moves others to demonstrate their faith, is worthless. Anyone, who says, “go in peace” while offering nothing to this destitute one, leaving the helping to others, would be known as one who has no love or kindness about him. In addition, again, it needs to be said that this faithless one would bring reproach to God and Christianity. Those outside of Christianity looking in would ask themselves, “Who would want to be a part of such a religion?”
 Johnson, The Letter of James, 239. Wallace (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 437) believes that “the suppression of the agent serves as an indictment.”
 Craig L. Blomberg and Mariam J. Kamell, James, vol. 16, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 131.
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