What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
- James 2:14-26
“Your own conduct and actions
have brought this on you.
This is your punishment.
How bitter it is!
How it pierces to the heart!”
- Jeremiah 4:18
Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the Lord your God. Then the Lord will relent and not bring the disaster he has pronounced against you.
- Jeremiah 36:13
“For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: How much worse will it be when I send against Jerusalem my four dreadful judgments—sword and famine and wild beasts and plague—to kill its men and their animals! Yet there will be some survivors—sons and daughters who will be brought out of it. They will come to you, and when you see their conduct and their actions, you will be consoled regarding the disaster I have brought on Jerusalem—every disaster I have brought on it. You will be consoled when you see their conduct and their actions, for you will know that I have done nothing in it without cause, declares the Sovereign Lord.”
- Ezekiel 14:21-23
“Daring to do what is right, not what fancy may tell you,
valiantly grasping occasions, not cravenly doubting-
freedom comes only through deeds, not through thoughts taking wing.
Faint not nor fear, but go out to the storm and the action,
trusting in God whose commandment you faithfully follow;
freedom, exultant, will welcome your spirit with joy.”
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison
The second in Bonhoeffer’s “Stations on the Road to Freedom” is Action. We started two week’s ago with Discipline. He wrote all four in about two hours, sometime near the end of July 1944, after about fifteen months in prison.
I could simply get on a soapbox and proclaim that if we do not fight for our freedom, we will be doomed to slavery. Someone will take advantage, as they already have in small ways, maybe even thought of as insignificant ways. Our freedoms are eroding.
Did we ever have the freedom to say anything at any time to anyone? Not really. If you call your boss ugly names, he can fire you. He would have fired you 50 years ago for the same thing. But today, when we get cancelled, with cancellation goes the chance of ever working and putting food on the table. Social media is pervasive.
Why bring this up? We are known by two things: actions and words. Both need to be as impeccable as possible to survive in any society today or 100 years ago or in the time of Jesus. Why did the Pharisees flaunt their obvious rule following? They wished to be perceived as holy than thou. They were a class above those horrid sinners, but they sinned in other ways. In ways that the public did not see.
So here we are trying to act better than we actually are, and God knows our every action, every thought, and every motivation for every action and thought. Yet, Bonhoeffer is saying that to have faith, and to obtain freedom, we must take action.
I have known many great thinkers of good deeds, but when it came time to act upon the thought of a good deed, they were also great thinkers of excuses.
I have known church leaders who dreamed up great ideas and put out a call for workers to get it done. When the day came for the work to commence, the church leader was not there. The church leader was then called by someone in the group of workers. The church leader said that their job was making the church aware of a need. Fulfilling the need was someone else’s job.
Of course, there is that church leader who calls in favors to put on a great program. The program then goes into full swing and the church leader is there, sitting in a recliner, basking in the glow of everyone thanking the leader for the opportunity to be part of the program. The leader did not even supervise; the leader just graciously accepted all the praise.
Yes, coming up with the idea is an action. Announcing to the church body that action must be taken is an action. Calling in favors from everyone who owes you a favor is an action. But what does the public see? They see you either absent, not there at all, or there to receive the praise while everyone else is working hard.
We will be judged on this earth by our words and our works, both good and bad, and whether fairly or unfairly. God will judge us fairly, and yes, we will all be judged. For those who are not saved, they will be judged for each and every sin. They will be held to account. But for the believer, they will be judged by whether they ever helped someone in need. We will each receive a crown. Will yours be tarnished and plain? Or will yours be bright and shiny, reflecting all who have benefited by your actions?
Our road to freedom may start with discipline, but discipline while sitting and doing nothing helps no one else. While disciplined, we need to take action in showing love for one another.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.
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