Wednesday, April 6, 2011

In Which God Pulls a Bait-and-Switch

The more time I spend in the Bible—and as a good Protestant girl, this is a must—the more questions I have. Some of them are stupid (I’m consumed with curiosity about what Jesus’ favorite food, color, and weather was). Some are slightly more worthwhile: What did Sarai think about Abram pretending she was his sister? But most are just baffling.

I'm puzzled. Get it?!
Recently I’ve been wondering which is more important: faith or deeds? Because although it is optimal to have both, it’s impossible to be thinking and doing exactly what God wants you to be thinking and doing at all times. (Forget feeling because “The heart is deceitful above all else and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Not Me.) So, when you can’t have both right thoughts and right actions, which should you shoot for?

Yes, I can see all my fellow Protestants fervently flipping to James right now so I’ll save you the trouble. Chapter 2, starting in verse 14, James says,

“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? ... faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

And I say, “Oh good. Finally God is going to explain how I’m supposed to balance my inadequacies!”

But James suddenly takes a hard left, pulling what can only be described as a classic bait-and-switch:

“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.”

Although arguably some of the greatest verses in the Bible, they say nothing about those people who place deeds ahead of faith. Stumped again. But at least I am left with promise:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you.

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