Our scene opens.

We see a dad — just an ordinary, average guy — walking down the hall of his house, headed to grab something out of a back room.

As he passes his daughter’s bedroom on the left, he glances in and his temper immediately flares. The room that he asked his daughter to clean three days ago is STILL a disaster. Clothes are covering the floor. Every dresser drawer is hanging out, contents spilling out. Water bottles here. Nail polish bottles there. Soccer balls. Old homework assignments. You name it, it’s on this girl’s bedroom floor.

Furious, the dad does a 180 and heads back to the living room where his daughter is sitting on the couch, AirPods in, scrolling on her phone.

“Excuse me, young lady!” he says, loud enough for her to hear over her TikToks.

The daughter takes out her earbuds one at a time looking up at him with the disdain of a feudal lord looking upon an insolent peasant.

“Can I help you?” the daughter says.

“I told you to clean your room three days ago,” exclaims the father, “and it’s STILL a mess!”

“Hell hath no fury like a teenage interrupted.” – William Shakespeare after becoming a father to teenagers, probably.

Unfazed, the daughter replies, “But I memorized what you said.”

“What do you mean, you MEMORIZED what I said?”

“You said, Dad, and I quote, ‘Clean your room!’ I even learned how to say it in Greek, in Hebrew, and in Spanish. Limpia tu habitación. That’s the Spanish!

I even read a book about it. Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It was a New York Times Best Seller so you know it’s high-quality stuff. It really helped me understand, like, what you said about needing to clean my room. It was really life-changing for me.

I also met with some friends and we talked about the importance of having a clean room and what it’s like to have a clean room and how you should have a clean room. I even had my friend Olivia over and we worked on a vision board together. I have to admit, I was skeptical at first but laying it out like that I’m beginning to see the benefits.

Vision boarding is a great tool for imagining yourself in a new and improved future. And for procrastinating from the work of building that future.

I also started a journaling practice that has helped me set some positive intentions for having a cleaner room. It gave me a lot of clarity about how toxic some of the people around me are and how they’re holding me back from having the clean bedroom that I deserve.

I also spent a lot of time praying about having a clean room. And, you know what? These three past days, I’ve really felt close to God. I just have this profound sense that God has plans for me to be tidier person.”

Not sure how to respond, the dad stutters out, “O-o-okay… Well… I guess… Keep up the good work?”

“Thanks, Dad.”

End scene.

It’s easy to mistake activity for progress like this dad. 

Don’t just listen to God’s word. Don’t just talk about it. Actually DO what it says. That is the counsel of the Epistle of James.

James says that spending your time reading story after story, and passage after passage about God’s care and concern for the poor but then never actually going out and caring for them yourself is like looking in a mirror and then walking away and immediately forgetting what you look like.

With this metaphor, what James is getting at is that care and concern for the poor is a definitional part of following Jesus. It’s not something nice that we do because we happen to be nice people. It’s not something optional that we do if and when we feel like it. Rather, it’s EITHER that we actively concern ourselves with the poor OR we have completely forgotten who we are and we are no longer following Jesus.

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father,” writes James, means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”

Bedrooms get cleaned by actually cleaning them! 🤯

Put another way, reading and talking and hearing about God’s care for the poor without ever going out and actually caring for them ourselves is like vision boarding and journaling and praying about cleaning our rooms without ever actually cleaning our rooms.

May our hearts and our religion (and our bedroom floors) be found pure and genuine in the eyes of God!