Saturday, October 17, 2015

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--a burger they no doubt ordered after seeing it hyped on TV--they observe: "The bun is very nice...a nice fluffy bun." It's then that Clara asks the obvious question about the tiny piece of fried meat that's nearly hidden by the bread:

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

More than 30 years later, people still ask, Hamburger"Where's the beef?" when they want to see claims backed by solid results rather than empty words. And it's also a question that's as valid for Christ-followers (known collectively as The Church) as it is for a hamburger restaurant. As believers, we're able to make remarkable claims about how our Savior--Jesus--has changed our lives and is changing the world. But if the public perceives our lives as no different than anyone else's--and maybe even worse--they have a right to be skeptical and point at our hypocrisy.

Centuries before Clara Peller posed her famous 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.

Likewise, the Apostle Paul makes the point in Romans 3:20 and Ephesians 2:8 that we're not saved from the penalty for our sins 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 follow His plan of salvation and accept His free gift of freedom through Jesus Christ.

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 change lives and put His love into action.

Now there's the beef!

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