Take the case, my brothers, of someone who has never done a single good act but claims that he has faith. Will that faith save him? If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, ‘I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty’, without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead.
This is the way to talk to people of that kind: ‘You say you have faith and I have good deeds; I will prove to you that I have faith by showing you my good deeds – now you prove to me that you have faith without any good deeds to show. You believe in the one God – that is creditable enough, but the demons have the same belief, and they tremble with fear. Do realise, you senseless man, that faith without good deeds is useless. You surely know that Abraham our father was justified by his deed, because he offered his son Isaac on the altar? There you see it: faith and deeds were working together; his faith became perfect by what he did. This is what scripture really means when it says: Abraham put his faith in God, and this was counted as making him justified; and that is why he was called ‘the friend of God.’
You see now that it is by doing something good, and not only by believing, that a man is justified. A body dies when it is separated from the spirit, and in the same way faith is dead if it is separated from good deeds.
Jesus called the people and his disciples to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. What gain, then, is it for a man to win the whole world and ruin his life? And indeed what can a man offer in exchange for his life? For if anyone in this adulterous and sinful generation is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’ And he said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.’
His faith became perfect by what he did
Following completion of National Service (NS) in Singapore, all combat-fit males have to take an annual physical fitness test. For my first such test, I psyched myself up as I journeyed to the test centred. I told myself to push on as I was doing my run. I still failed. The reason was simple. I did not train much before the test. Belief only took me so far.
Today’s readings emphasise the need for faith to be demonstrated. Without actions, faith remains invisible and stagnates. This is an injustice. Real faith must respond to challenges, such as the one Christ gave his disciples. Acting upon these challenges tests faith and strengthens it.
It is said that actions speak louder than words. I remember a friend sharing once in cell group how his colleague asked him if he was Christian because of how he acted at the workplace. This made me wonder what I needed to do to be recognisable as a Christian. In truth, I find that there is much I am not doing yet. My sisters and brothers, let us examine our actions and reflect on whether they give voice to our faith.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Aloysius Ting)
Prayer: We pray for opportunities to demonstrate our faith through our good works.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Lord for saving us by His grace.