Reporter Jacob Riis’s vivid descriptions of poverty in 19th-century New York City horrified a generally complacent public. His book How the Other Half Lives combined his writing with his own photographs to paint a picture so vivid that the public could not escape the certainty of poverty’s desperate existence. The third of fifteen children himself, Riis wrote so effectively because he had lived in that world of terrible despair.
Shortly after the release of his book, he received a card from a young man just beginning his political career. The note read simply, “I have read your book, and I have come to help. Theodore Roosevelt.” (This politician later became a US President.)
True faith responds to the needs of others, according to James (1:19-27). May our hearts be moved from inaction to action, from words alone to deeds that back them up. Compassionate action not only aids those mired in life’s difficulties, but it may also make them open to the greater message from our Savior who sees their need and can do so much more for them.
O Lord, it is so easy to be overwhelmed, or to judge and therefore to refrain from helping others. Lift our eyes above our own thoughts and circumstances, and let us care as You care.
Others will know what the words “God is love” mean when they see it in our lives.
James’s letter was written to people enduring difficult times. In James 1:1 we read, “James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.” The “twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” were Jewish followers of Christ who had been driven from their homes in Jerusalem by persecution. Many of them had lost everything because of their faith in Christ, and they were struggling. Perhaps that is why James spoke so passionately about caring for orphans and widows (1:27) and the poor (ch.2). Because the believers had suffered so much themselves, they should have understood the importance of responding to the needs of others. Bill Crowder