If you want a heated, passionate conversation amongst a group of different Christian believers, bring up faith vs. works.
I have dear friends, right here, that believe you don’t need to do anything to be saved, except believe on the name of Jesus. Now, hold on. Hang in there with me.
Why do Christians get so riled up over works? Why does that make so many, so uncomfortable?
I guess the real question is what does “works” look like?
It’s a serious question. I would love some interaction. What does “works” look like to you?
For some it means strictly adhering to a day of worship. For some, if not the same group, it means following the 10 commandments. In some religions it means physically harming and hurting your own flesh. What does “works” look like to you?
The more important question is, what does it look like to Jesus Christ?
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James 2:14-17 ESV
A few questions popped off the page at me.
1) What good is it if someone has faith but does not have works?
2) Can faith save that person?
3) What does ‘works’ look like?
Jesus paints a very clear picture here. If a man or woman is poorly clothed and destitute of daily food and all we do is tell them to have a nice day instead of clothing and feeding that person, we are like a person that has faith but no works.
Hebrews 6:10 says, “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name…” NKJV
God will not forget your ‘work’ or your good deeds. That labor of love you did for Him, toward Him and in His name. That is the work the Bible is talking about.
Hebrews 13:16 reminds us to “…do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”
Matthew told us to let our light shine before others, that they may see our good ‘works’. Matthew 5:16
King Solomon wrote about works and reward.
“He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given.” Proverbs 19:17 NKJV
“The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.” Proverbs 22:9 NIV
Ok, here is another touchy subject. The homeless; specifically, the homeless who stand at intersections or freeway offramps, holding signs and hoping for a few dollar bills to be handed out your car window.
Wendell always gave to those people.
Sometimes he would ignore the person but would feel so convicted that he would turn around, go back, and give them a $5 bill.
I know people who feel very strongly about this, in other words, it’s a big no-no. But for Wendell it was his little mission field. He was always about “How would I want to be treated.”
The Bible tells us how to treat the hungry and the needy, but how often do we decide that a certain class of hungry and needy does not get our help?
How often have you thought, or said out loud, “Get a job!” or “they could get help at the mission.” or “there are plenty of places to stay out of the elements.”
We might smile, we might even wave at these people, but do we help?
“You can’t give them money; they will spend it on beer or drugs!” Then take them a sandwich, or a bottle of water, or a little care packet with snacks and clean socks.
This ‘taking care of others’ is important to God.
So, what does ‘works’ look like? Let’s look at The Final Judgment.
“When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:
I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’
“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’
“Then he will turn to the ‘goats,’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—
I was hungry and you gave me no meal, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was homeless and you gave me no bed, I was shivering and you gave me no clothes, Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’
“Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’
“He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’
“Then those ‘goats’ will be herded to their eternal doom, but the ‘sheep’ to their eternal reward.” Matthew 25:31-46 The Message
That my friend is what “works” looks like and we will be judged on our works, like it or not.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” 2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV