By Robert Halsey Pine
“But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.” (James 2:14-26 NRSV).
I’ve heard this debated hour after hour and year after year. Does faith or works save us?
The apostles and various writers of the Bible couldn’t agree on this one. I like James’ view on this. In these verses James gives us the example of Abraham. He says, “Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works.” The argument to justify one over the other is a waste of our time. When viewed from the universal perspective, this discussion is moot.
For me, faith and works are not mutually exclusive. They complement each other. They are a blend of how we revere and obey God. I think of it as going out on a limb for God. I remember a situation where my wife and I had become acquainted with a local couple through civic work in our town. They were un-churched. Not long after we met, the husband lost his father. His mother suffered from a chronic illness, which made things worse. I felt God nudging me into action. I obeyed by showing up with breakfast for them on Saturday mornings. I obeyed by decorating their front porch to welcome them home from an out-of-town trip. At some point I was sure that they would think I was crazy.
Other of their friends did similar things for them. Today they have a church family and have raised their children in the Church. Is faith and works together a part of this? I think so. Should those who went out on a limb for God wonder how things might have been? I think not. If we love, praise and obey God while loving one another, we are guaranteed the best outcome. Going out on a limb becomes the norm, everyday stuff.
Father God, Every time that I have stepped out to work for You with faith there has been fruit. No matter how bleak the situation my faith in You has nourished my work for You. Thank You, Father, for Your great gifts. Help me always to remember, I pray, that Your limbs are sturdy and Your fruit is plentiful. AMEN.
Robert Halsey Pine was born at Newark, Ohio in 1943. He is a graduate of Northeastern University and completed the program of Theological Education by Extension: Education for Ministry, School of Theology, the University of the South.