Yesterday, John Kerry spoke in a chuch and invoked biblical support for an attack on “our present national leadership.” Kerry alluded to the following passage from James 2:14-17:
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or a sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
Kerry asked rhetorically, “When we look at what is happening in America today, where are the works of compassion?”
This invocation of scripture has drawn fire from some quarters. For example, LeShawn Barber writes:
James gives guidance on how individuals, not governments, can evaluate their faith to determine whether it’s living or dead. It is the personal works of believers that James has in mind in this passage. It wasn’t addressed to Caesar. If Kerry were a Christian, he’d know that the biblical standard of the test of faith doesn’t rest on whether poor people exist or teenagers are killed in the streets. Using taxpayers’ money isn’t a work of faith.”
Bill Hobbs takes a similar tack:
Christians who delegate their “good works” to government are robbing God of the glory for such works. Think about it. When government writes a welfare check or picks up the tab for a poor person’s healthcare, who gets the glory? Government — and the politicians who proposed the program or voted for the increased funding. But when a Christian provides charity or help to their neighbor, they can easily give God the glory. You will never hear government tell a welfare recipient, “We’re doing this in the name of Jesus.”
While I suspect that we could have a conversation about the proper interpretation of this passage of James with respect to individuals, on the subject of Kerry’s misuse of the scripture to make the case for more expansive government, only one response seems appropriate: Amen!