Faith without deeds is dead.
That’s a statement I used to have trouble with. From childhood, I have been pretty firmly entrenched in the idea, however true, that we get into Heaven solely on the basis of God’s grace. It’s always been clear to me that our works don’t cut it. I get that.
Fast forward to my adulthood, when I became the check-the-boxes, complete-the-to-do-list guy. (That’s pretty hard to reconcile that with my creative tendencies, too, but that’s another post for another time.) I want to quantify expectations. I want to make sure the path is easy for me to understand and complete. I want to be in control of my surroundings.
For a long time, the whole concept of “faith without deeds is dead” was especially difficult for me to wrap my mind around. I asked myself (and God) a lot of questions… If faith without deeds is dead, don’t the deeds negate our faith? If I can’t earn my way into Heaven and curry favor with God, why do we have to have the deeds to accompany our faith? Isn’t that legalism? And on and on… I really struggled with that idea for a long, long time.
It finally made sense to me when I was able to understand that the deeds don’t generate the faith…rather that the deeds are the response to faith. We should want to serve out of the joy that our faith brings us, and we should want our actions to draw people to the faith we possess.
James 2 makes it pretty clear, though it took me a while to get it through my thick skull:
…faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
James 2:17 (NIV)
…and in the verse that has become sort of a motto for me:
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.
James 2:18 (NIV)
I’m grateful that I don’t have to earn my way into God’s favor; I’m eternally glad He has taken care of that for me. I’m also thankful that I can serve Him as a result of my faith. After all, I would never want anyone to say my faith was dead.