This January we bought a house that was built in 1885. I love it. It has nine foot ceilings, hobbit doorways, and comes in at just under 1000 square feet. It’s very “us” and I wouldn’t trade it in for the world.
I do miss warmth though.
Any historic homeowner knows that the struggle is real. Yesterday I dared to crank up my heat to a wild and aggressive 72 degrees, lest I actually freeze to death in my own home. Hot tea is no longer a nice little luxury, but a necessity for warming your hands on cold, cloudy days.
I layer on my cabin socks, my chunky Irish knit sweater, my slippers, and, let’s be real, sometimes a hat. I grumble and then I look out my front window and am reminded just what a lucky girl I am. Blessed in my place and time in this life with a home, blankets, a family to fill it all with joy. Blessed to have hats and scarves if necessary. Blessed to realistically crank up the heat to 75 if I so desired and still be able to pay the bill, albeit reluctantly.
James 2:14-17 talks a lot about clothes and food and the blessings of daily life. But what really spoke to me when I read through it again today was warmth.
Read James 2:14-17 so we can be on the same page:
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
When we look at this passage our eyes and ears immediately go to the word dead. It’s natural. It’s a shocking and dramatic word for us. Couple it with a big word like faith and all kinds of anxiety starts poking out. We also don’t want the relationship between faith and works to be misunderstood. It’s important that we don’t pile up expectations on ourself (see yesterday’s study ) or act like God could care less about our life here on earth, so we spend so much time explaining verse 17 that we never get around to hashing out verses 14-16.
So we glide over simple words like clothes and food and settle on the bigger words, haphazardly giving them a place of higher importance and in need of greater explanation.
But today, I want to talk about warmth. It’s a little word, so mundane and basic. James imitates the flippancy of a person who is slapping a Band-aid on a person’s gushing wound, in verse 16.
And the gushing wound of our current cultural context is warmth.
We may (or may not) be clothing the homeless, feeding the impoverished, caring for the brother or sister in need, but I think our bigger problem, the root of the problem, is warmth.
Christ Jesus is not only loving, caring, compassionate, holy, good, and true. He is warm. He takes time for people. He invites people in, even when he knows it’s going to hurt, when there will be loss, when there will be betrayal, when there will be drama.
We have so little time. I understand that. But how can we show Gospel-bred warmth to our spouse, to our families, to the people we pass along the streets?
Note the language in James 2:16. We are the ones saying, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled.” Rather than saying, “Come, take a moment. Rest a while here with me. Let’s pray together. Let’s tackle life together.”
What if “Go in peace” turned into “Come, let me help you see His peace”?
The Greek word for be warmed back in James 2 is thermainesthe. It’s related to our word for thermos. What if it was as simple as sharing food with someone rather than handing them food? Shopping for a coat with someone rather than putting it in a collection bin? Inviting a friend over, into our stack of dirty dishes and cluttered chaos, rather than, well…not?
The world is hungry for warmth, friends. It’s a door to the Gospel. It was as true at the time of Christ, as it is today. Read Matthew 14:13-21 in your Bible. Jot down or take a mental note. What kinds of things does Jesus do that offer warmth to the people?
13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 15 Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.”19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.20 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Jesus also sees our need for Help and gives us the Holy Spirit. His Spirit is warmth filling our hearts and souls so that we ourselves can share it.
If you’re like me, you have a thermos tucked away somewhere, or a to-go coffee tumbler. Let’s put them to use today. Bring a warm beverage to someone in your life. It’s simple, I know. But it’s a start. Life-giving Gospel sharing is built on life lived together and that starts with some warmth. Go meet a neighbor. Bring a fresh bag of Starbucks. Put a Bible verse of encouragement with it. Bring a pot of tea to boil and pack it in a thermos for that mid-afternoon slump at work. Share it around and share a little bit of yourself and Jesus in the process.
We are free, friends. Free to live different, to take time, and to open our chilly but wonderful houses and hearts to those around us.
What’s your favorite hot beverage, warm piece of clothing, and/or thing to do on a cold day?
Make a list of what gifts of warmth Jesus has given you. I’ll get you started – love, compassion, fellowship…
When has someone shared the gift of warmth with you?
How can we connect the warmth that we share with the message of Christ, be it immediate or over time in relationship? We’d love to hear your examples and experiences or ideas!