Works Required

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2: 14 – 17(NIV)

It is so easy for us to say “I am a Christian”, yet we worry constantly about what we will eat, what we will wear, where we will sleep among so many other worries. And for many, they worry constantly yet say “The Lord will provide” and do nothing but sit and wait for the Lord to provide. Many of us cannot fathom that God has already provided; it is up to us to act on our faith. God clearly tells us not to worry and He even gave us examples of real life humans who were at their wits end but renewed faith gave them a life. It is noteworthy that faith on its own did not – and does not – do anything for anyone. Rather, faith requires the addition of a “commitment fee” if you will – action. James 2:18a (NIV) says “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” It is not enough to say “I am faithful that God will do this or that for me”, rather it is essential for us to be faithful and combine it with some form of faith affirming action.

As a child, it was easy for me to believe that God would do everything, make everything happen the way it was meant to be, even without my input. Indeed, Jesus in Matthew 18:3 (NIV) says “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” In growing up and learning more about the world and gaining an element of cynicism that so often plagues teenagers and young adults, I found myself questioning and at one point, even doubting the very existence of God. Yet still, I was intrigued by stories of people such as the widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17.

Final Meal

She had been gathering sticks to make a final meal for herself and her son, after which they would wait for death. Clearly she was at her wits end and had accepted that all was lost to her. But when Elijah came along and told her not to worry, she stopped worrying immediately and acted in faith. She followed his instruction, doing everything as he had said and through her actions, she showed faith in God and managed to avoid death and survived to become a testament to faith in God. As long as she woke up and made the bread daily, her flour and oil did not run out. Her acting in faith and hospitality to the prophet meant that he was on hand when her son fell ill and he was able to save his life.

This story amazed me because of complete act of faith that the woman had. Could I possibly do that? Then yet again, another widow intrigued me. The story in 2 Kings 4 relates that a certain prophet’s widow approached Elisha at her wits’ end, believing her sons were about to be taken away to be slaves. She had no idea whether he could or would help her and how he would help her, yet she sought him out. Driven by hope and faith, she sought him out, knowing only that he was a man of God. He did not do anything for her but rather told her what to do. She could have given up and said he was a fake, yet she acted on his word, believing him to be a man of God. The widow is the one who had to act, doing something so simple yet completely life changing. Just like Peter’s few steps of walking on water (Matthew 14) required faith, she required faith believe be able to achieve the seemingly impossible the feat of producing oil from one jar into the jars until she had run out of jars was one no human mind could comprehend. Yet her acting on faith made it a reality. She was able to fend for herself and clear the debts her family had and remain with something to be able to survive a while longer. Her acting positively on her faith enabled her sons to avoid slavery and living a full life.

Assist the widow

I found it interesting to note that widows in Biblical times were constantly linked with fatherless children, the impression given being that widows were just as helpless as fatherless children and needed taking care of just as badly. The reminders for people to take care of widows are numerous. Deuteronomy 26:12 says “When you finish tithing the entire tenth of your produce in the third year, the year of the tenth, you will give to the Levite, foreign resident, the fatherless child and the widow and they will eat their fill within your cities” while yet another verse says “When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you must not return to gather the leftovers. They will be left for the foreign resident, the fatherless child and the widow” (Deuteronomy 24:21, NIV). Once their husbands passed away, their source of livelihood became tenuous and uncertain. A look at the widow Ruth’s story shows how she had to go back home in order to progress with her life. Yet in spite of their circumstances, they were able to help themselves through faith and acting on that faith.

Help her stand

Looking at my own family, I see that efforts have been actively made to ensure the basic needs and wants of the widows and fatherless children in my extended family were taken care of, though inevitably the quality of life would change, particularly if the widow in question was a fulltime housewife. The objective of the assistance would be for the widow and the children to get to a point where they were able to stand on their own two feet and fend for themselves. But for the most part, the widow in question would have requested the assistance herself, thus having faith that the family would work with her and give her assistance that she required.

On a more personal level, the perusal of the Bible has enabled me to pray and work harder in my own life, to prove to myself that God will and wants to do things for me but I must act first so God can show his miracles through me. With every step of faith, through my actions and prayers, God continually shows himself.

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