Pray vs do something
This tweet by Ricky Gervais in response to the Oklahoma tornado is being shared all over the Internet. It is often associated with comments like:
“thats funny but i would send money and take action rather than just say a few words”
Praying is a polite way of saying “I wont help you because I care for my cents and pennies more than your life and so does my god.”
These comments imply that prayer is useless and the only reasonable and worthwhile way of helping the people in Oklahoma is to provide humanitarian aid.
At one level Gervais is entirely correct. If the only thing people did in response to human need was to pray without offering financial help then he is right.
Yet, my difficulty with Ricky’s insinuation and a number of the associated comments is that it drives a wedge between ‘prayer’ and good works that the Bible never does. The Bible never suggests that a person should just pray for someone and not offer any material help. In fact it is highly critical of those who claim to just ‘pray’ and not offer physical help. Hence unwittingly, Gervais has agreed with the very point the Bible makes!
Consider James 2:14-17.
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds. Can such 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.
Hence Ricky Gervais agrees with the Bible to point out that in the middle of screaming human need prayer alone is insufficient. The Bible firmly advocates helping with physical need.
Where Gervais and his followers miss the point is that it is possible to pray and give humanitarian aid at the same time. In fact, this is exactly the response the Bible advocates. May we pray for and physically help those in need in Oklahoma.