Faith and Works

I was reading the book of James yesterday when I came across 2:22: “Faith is made complete by what you do.”

I imagine that Sunday morning worship services are kind of like being in a locker room with your basketball team before a game. You know what’s in the playbook/Bible because you’ve studied it. You’ve worked on your game/life. It isn’t perfect, but perfection isn’t the point right now. The point is to go out and perform as best you can. The Coach/Pastor gives you a spirited pep talk. Finally the doors open.

Do you get out there and play with every ounce of strength you’ve got? Are you part of a team effort to be victorious? Or do you slip off into the crowd, only returning for the next pep talk in the locker room?

Basketball players aren’t judged on their intentions. They aren’t judged on how excited they get in the locker room. Fans don’t care how well they know the playbook. They just care about seeing their team win.

We in evangelical Christianity are very weary of works-based salvation theology. It’s good to realize that every time you do something sacrificial or loving, you’re not getting an extra crown in heaven, or an extra room on your mansion. But if we just become hoarders of God’s love and grace while the rest of the world goes to hell in a hand basket, we’ve committed an even greater error.

Here’s the thing about the guys who win in the NBA: only the guys who put in the time and effort to be great get there. Guys like Kobe and LeBron and Kevin Durant, they put in more hours of work than their competitors. A guy like Allen Iverson, who famously mocked practice? I guarantee you he played more pick-up ball than you could believe. Talent is essential, but everybody in the NBA has talent. The question is whether you work to maximize that talent. Fans may not care about how much time and energy a player spends on practice and working out, but they sometimes forget that those are the very things that created the winner they love.

In Christianity, rather than talent, we can say that we all have the Holy Spirit living within us. But that if you don’t maximize your relationship with God, you’ll probably just end up being another bench warmer. The pews already have plenty of butts in them. What we need is more people who are seeking ways toact on their faith.

A basketball player with talent is incomplete. It will take hours of time, pounds of sweat and disciplined effort to become a champion.

A Christian with faith is incomplete. Because faith is made complete by what you do.