Daily Office Readings for Tuesday of Proper 17: Year 1
“So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (James 2:17)
The biggest and most important word in this verse has only two letters, (i and f). I was once told that “if” is half of life. I know that in my life I have looked back and said, “If I had only known;” or, “If I had only done this or that, life would have been different for me.” Faith is a word that means belief in. If we believe something then we act on that belief or faith. If we believe that the earth is flat, and we are sailors, then we restrict how far out we sail. If we believe in, and have faith in God, who wants the best for us, then we act on that faith also. Our actions, that is, our works are guided by our faith, that is, what we believe in.
In the English translation of the Gospel according to John, the word faith is not used. Faith is a noun. The writer of the Gospel according to John uses a verb because this writer wants action. Faith is belief in action, that is, works.
We help the homeless by assisting them, and the organizations that help them, with our money. This is works following faith. So, what is faith without works? It is merely “wishing” everything goes well. Wishing is for fairytales. It is as James says when we see someone in distress and say to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? There is no good in that. It’s fairytales. Faith is for the believer.
James uses the story of Abraham and his faith, in the almost sacrifice of his son Isaac. The point being made is that Abraham followed his faith with dedicated works, until he was stopped by God. “You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’, and he was called the friend of God:” (James 2: 22 and 23).
Faith in the human being is also the soul of the human being. Therefore, it is the spirit of the human being. It is what makes us different among all God’s creation. This is why James, the brother of our Lord Jesus says, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.” (James 2:26)
As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John