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.
Faith or Works, Works or Faith?
One of the hardest books in the New Testament is probably the book of James. “Why?” you are most likely inquiring. James is a hard book because it primarily deals with doing, with works. For many this is a difficult subject as one, many of us dislike doing. Our flesh causes us to resist the notions of doing, in which Christ in us regularly stirs. Saying? Sure. Believing? No problem. Yet when it actually comes time to do something, often it becomes a struggle just to get out of our chairs. Others dislike the book of James because of it’s emphasis on works, and for a lot of people, it becomes hard for them to reckon faith and works. Of these people was the man himself, and one of my heroes, Martin Luther. Luther detested the book of James, even going so far as to call it an “an epistle of straw.” Which if you know Luther, he came from a religion of extreme works, and as many do who lived one extreme ,at one time, upon his being a believer he placed himself on the opposite end, becoming a man of extreme faith, or to sound slightly more intellectual, a fiedist. Reading the epistle of James, the best way to view it is as a balance, that works are not a cause of faith, but they are a result of it. Just like a car has to drive in order to operate the way it’s making intended, believers must do in order to operate the way in which Christ commanded.
Saying Not Doing
The comic above sees Charlie Brown and Schroeder strong along on a winter day. On their walk they come across Snoopy, who appears to be cold as he sits, enduring the elements. In the first two panels, both Charlie Brown and Schroeder identify that Snoopy is cold, so what comes in the third and fourth panels is not an act of unawareness, but and act of ignorance, an act of faith without works. In panel three the duo approach Snoopy and tell him to “be of good cheer”, only to, in panel four, continue walking on, having done nothing to fix the situation, and leaving behind a puzzled, and still cold, Snoopy.
Doing Not Just Saying
“Some Christians need encouragement to think before they act. Others need encouragement to act after they think.”
― Kevin DeYoung
If you have not already deduced it, this comic is an illustration based directly off of James 2:14-17. In this passage James gives a charge example of faith without works, by describing a person who needs their needs met interacting with a believer, who gives nice words, but does nothing to actually help. James whole point here is about people of faith not just saying, but also doing. You know, the whole being not just HEARERS of the Word, but also DOERS? Yes, that! And these people, the situation, James is describing, is very much like us and the things we face today. Our ideas of doing some, is to post a verse on someone in needs Facebook wall, putting spare change in the Ronald McDonald box on late night McDonald’s runs, buying a pair of Tom’s shoes, or my personal favorite, telling them “I will be praying for you.” Mind you, I do not have a problem with people praying for others, but how often do we use that line to make us feel like we are doing something, without doing anything? We love that sort of stuff, feeling like we did something, when really we did nothing. Most trends in social media, it is not so much about awareness, as it is for people to find some sort of satisfaction, believing they did something, for somebody, somewhere.
To Do or Not To Do
One of the primary points of this passage, of this comic, is a charge to do something. Our faith is not about just knowing, or saying, but doing. Far too often though, our faith stops at words and thoughts, when action is what is needed. Oh sure we do stuff, if there is something to be gotten out of it for ourselves. That is not the type of doing that is being described though. The works this passage is talking about, is the kind that are a manifestation of our faith, motivated by who we are in Christ to serve God. Not for personal gain, not to impress people, but to act on the faith that is instilled in us. So what do we do about this? We put our money, our time, our energy, where our faith is, and we become more than a hearer, we become a doer. Look around you, what needs does the world around you have, what tasks are waiting to be done in the sphere of your existence? Maybe a friends of yours is having an awful day, take them out to coffee or a meal, and let them talk. On a bad day a lot of folks just need someone to listen. Maybe you see an overflowing trash can, do not walk by it, but empty the thing and replace the bag. Hold doors for people, not just the opposite sex, but for everybody. Even the small things can be works manifesting our faith. For the guys. You could be at dinner, take people’s plates…and not just the girls plates, to impress them either, but the guys plates as well. What about when you are at work, or among unbelievers, is the Gospel something your share cold contact or through pieces of paper, or is it see in your life, in the very things you do, not just say?! Doing something is broad and comes in a lot of shapes and sizes. There is not a set prescription for doing, you just have to do it. If you are a believer pursuing Christ, you have faith, so allow works to come from your faith as a result.
For the previous Four Panel Philosophy, click the link below. . .