Beliefs are tools that can be used to control or to love. Having the correct belief doesn’t tell us much of anything. But it’s tempting because it’s easy. Already in the Bible, we have people who say that what matters is what you believe. James has this to say about that:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, 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 my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder. — James 2:14-19
I have a lot of people in my life who want me to give them a gold star because they believe in God. “Good for you,” James says, “so do demons. What’s your point?” Or as the rabbis would say, “He who only occupies himself with the study of the Torah is as if he had no God.”1
Our emphasis on knowledge and belief over the past few hundred years has deceived us into thinking that thinking true thoughts is what matters in the Christian faith. This couldn’t be further from how the Bible talks about faith and, frankly, how it talks about truth. There are almost no places in the Bible where it endorses a view of truth as “believing the right doctrine.”
This reminds me of Disney’s 2008 movie Wall-E. Earth has become a wasteland, and humans are living on a luxury spaceship called Axiom. The spaceship is designed so that people never have to walk. The people sit in floating chairs with giant screens in front of them and can make their way wherever they want without taking a step. Or, better yet, robots bring them whatever they want. Over time they lose their ability to walk due to obesity and lack of exercise.
Sometimes I wonder if we Christians are a little like the humans on Axiom. I wonder if we have become atrophied in actually practicing our faith. Sometimes I think we’ve convinced ourselves that we are practicing a healthy faith by simply checking off a list of four or five beliefs that make sure we are “in” and those who disagree are “out.” If that’s what it means to be a Christian, then we never have to walk. We can just sit in our chairs with giant screens in front of us. We have figured out a way to be a Christian without actually having to do anything to be a Christian except mentally check off a few thoughts. To that I want to say, “Good for you! You believe in God. You believe in the Bible. You believe in Jesus. So do demons. What’s your point?”
Somehow we’ve duped ourselves into thinking that what we believe is more important than how we believe. Perhaps it’s time to remember that love matters more than just believing in God in our heads and that love is a verb.2
It’s time to get off those chairs to find active ways to love the people around us.
- R. Huna, quoted in the Babylonian Talmud, ‘Abodah Zarah 17b, http://come-and-hear.com/zarah/zarah_17.html.
- Shout out to all you DC Talk fans who just got that reference.
Excerpted with permission from Love Matters More by Jared Byas, copyright Jared Byas.
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What are we doing with our faith? Is it just words? Or do we follow our faith up with deeds? Let’s stop and think for a moment and then decide how we can make a verb of our love. Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily