Faith and works

This blog post was published on Wednesday 7 March 2018.

This Lent as a church family we are reading through the letter of James, a couple of verses at a time. Today’s reading is this:

You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

James 2.20-24 (NIV)

Much ink has been spilled on these verses, but I thought I would add my own thoughts this morning.

As I read those words I pondered – we are not disembodied minds. By that I mean ‘faith’ is more than intellectual assent to or agreement with a set of doctrines. For ‘faith’ to have any real meaning to a human being it must impact the whole of a person – body, mind, spirit, emotion – the whole thing. I think this is what James is saying here.

If all we do is say, ‘I believe,’ but our actions do not change, the thoughts of our hearts remain the same – that lack of fruit betrays the lie. True faith trickles out of our entire person, in the way we think, the way we feel, and in what we do.

I sometimes wonder if the creed is in the correct place in our Church of England services, separated from the prayer to ‘live and work’ to the ‘praise and glory’ of God. The two may be separated by about half an hour in a service, but belong together in our daily life. Faith is to ‘live and work’ to the ‘praise and glory’ of God.