This semester I am teaching James a la Beth Moore, and let me tell you, it’s not for the faint of heart. James is a pretty blunt guy who doesn’t seem to put up with any excuses.
Thursday we were discussing the infamous faith and works verses the made Martin Luther want to tear the whole book right out of his Bible.
The verses say this:
“…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 what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? …You see that [Abraham’s] faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead,” (James 2:17-20, 22, 24, 26).
A woman in my group brought up an interesting question. She said she often wonders, “Am I doing enough?”
My initial response, and the response I gave in class on Thursday, was we all kind of know intuitively whether we’re doing what we can or we’re slacking off. If we’re honest with ourselves, we can answer that question. And if we are still unsure, we can ask friends if they think we’re doing enough. Sometimes outside parties can evaluate that kind of thing more objectively than we can ourselves.
As I thought more about it today, though, I wish I could go back in time and answer the question differently.
She didn’t express it this way, but I think what the woman was really asking was, “Am I doing enough for my faith to count?”
And that is a dangerous question.
It’s a trap.
It’s a trap set for believers by the Devil himself, hoping it will cause us to spiral into uncertainty about our salvation and how we got it in the first place.
It’s a question Jesus doesn’t want us to answer because He doesn’t want us to even consider it.
We cannot earn our faith. We cannot do enough to make our belief in God salvific. Only one thing saves us – the whole-hearted belief that Jesus’s holy blood more than makes up for our sinful choices.
If I can be so bold as to speak for James, I’ll say he never intended his letter to make believers wonder if they’ve done enough to earn Heaven. Rather, James challenges us to consider where our affections lie.
If we really love Him, we will love the things Jesus loves. We just won’t be able to help it. We will care about the widows, the orphans, the less-thans, the outcasts, the lost, and the otherwise broken (read: everyone). Our hearts will be drawn to them, and we will compulsively serve them out of our affection.
If we don’t really love Him, though, we won’t care about the things Jesus loves. We’ll care more about ourselves, our loved ones, and that’s about it. We won’t be moved to service unless it’s convenient or sporadic or somehow beneficial to us. Our affections will lie within.
Jesus is not interested in the quantity of our good deeds. He’s interested in the heart behind them. Never ask yourself, “Am I doing enough to make my faith count?” Instead, ask yourself, “Why am I serving?”
Align your heart with His, and your faith will count.