Saturday, October 6, 2012

Where's the Beef?

But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." 
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

 -- James 2:18

"Where's the Beef?" was one of the most popular catchphrases of the 1980's. It originated from a Wendy's commercial depicting an outspoken grandma (played by 83-year-old Clara Peller) and her two elderly friends at a fast food restaurant. As the ladies inspect their meal, they observe, "The bun is very nice...a nice fluffy bun." It's then that feisty 4-feet 10-inch Clara asks the famous question about the tiny piece of meat that's nearly hidden by the bread:

"Where's the beef?...Where's the beef?!"

Nearly 30 years later, people are still asking "Where's the beef?" when they want to see evidence rather than empty words. And it's a question that's as valid for The Church as it is for a hamburger restaurant. As Christ-followers, we're able to make remarkable claims about how our Savior--Jesus--has transformed us. But if the public sees that our attitudes and lifestyles are really no different (or maybe even worse) than anyone else's, they have a right to be skeptical and point at our hypocrisy.

Centuries before Clara Peller asked her question, James--the half brother of Jesus--used a related illustration to help separate the steak from the sizzle:

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such a faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

As the Body of Christ known as The Church, we can't claim to be better than anyone else because of any good deeds ("works") we might do. If that were the case, it would be possible to earn our way to God's acceptance. The fact is that our feeble efforts and good intentions are never enough. There's nothing we can do...except to follow His plan of salvation and accept His free gift of freedom through Jesus Christ.

Christ-followers aren't "better" than anyone else. But they are blessed to do amazing things in this world. Rather than being saved BY our own good works, our faith leads us to be being saved FOR doing good works. The Church is therefore to be Jesus' mouth, eyes, hands and feet in the community and around the world--all to demonstrate God's power to transform lives and put His love in action.

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