FAITH AND WORKS
A young boy, on an errand for his mother, had just bought a dozen eggs. Walking out of
the store, he tripped and dropped the sack. All the eggs broke, and the sidewalk was a
mess. The boy tried not to cry. A few people gathered to see if he was OK and to tell him
how sorry they were. In the midst of the works of pity, one man handed the boy a quarter.
Then he turned to the group and said, "I care 25 cents worth. How much do the rest of
you care?" James 2:16 points out that words don't mean much if we have the ability to
Stanley C. Brown.
For years I enjoyed packing up my guns and some food to head off into the woods. Even
more than the hunting itself, I enjoyed the way these trips always seemed to deepen my
relationship with friends as we hunted during the day and talked late into the night
around the campfire. When an old friend recently invited me to relive some of those days,
I couldn't pass up the chance. For several weeks before the trip, I had taken the time to
upgrade some of my equipment and sight in my rifle. When the day came, I was ready for the
hunt. What I wasn't ready for was what my close friend, Tom, shared with me the first
night out on the trail.
I always enjoyed the time I spent with Tom. He had become a leader in his church and
his warm and friendly manner had also taken him many steps along the path of business
success. He had a lovely wife, and while I knew they had driven over some rocky roads in
their marriage, things now seemed to be stable and growing. Tom's kids, two daughters and
a son, were struggling in junior high and high school with the normal problems of peer
pressure and acceptance.
As we rode back into the mountains, I could tell that something big was eating away at
Tom's heart. His normal effervescent style was shrouded by an overwhelming inner hurt.
Normally, Tom would attack problems with the same determination that had made him a
success in business. Now, I saw him wrestling with something that seemed to have knocked
him to the mat for the count. Silence has a way of speaking for itself. All day and on
into the evening, Tom let his lack of words shout out his inner restlessness. Finally,
around the first night's campfire, he opened up.
The scenario Tom painted was annoyingly familiar. I'd heard it many times before in
many other people's lives. But the details seemed such a contract to the life that Tom and
his wife lived and the beliefs they embraced. His oldest daughter had become attached to a
boy at school. Shortly after they started going together, they became sexually involved.
Within two months, she was pregnant. Tom's wife discovered the truth when a packet from
Planned Parenthood came in the mail addressed to her daughter. When confronted with it,
the girl admitted she had requested it when she went to the clinic to find out if she was
If we totaled up the number of girls who have gotten pregnant out of wedlock during the
past two hundred years of our nation's history, the total would be in the millions.
Countless parents through the years have faced the devastating news. Being a member of
such a large fraternity of history, however, does not soften the severity of the blow to
your heart when you discover it's your daughter.
Tom shared the humiliation he experienced when he realized that all of his teaching and
example had been ignored. Years of spiritual training had been thrust aside. His stomach
churned as he relived the emotional agony of knowing that the little girl he and his wife
loved so much had made a choice that had permanently scarred her heart.
I'm frequently confronted with these problems in my ministry and have found that
dwelling on the promiscuous act only makes matters worse. I worship a God of forgiveness
and solutions, and at that moment in our conversation I was anxious to turn toward hope
I asked Tom what they had decided to do. Would they keep the baby, or put it up for
adoption? That's when he delivered the blow. With the fire burning low, Tom paused for a
long time before answering. And even when he spoke he wouldn't look me in the eye.
"We considered the alternatives, Tim. Weighed all the options." He took a deep
breath. "We finally made an appointment with the abortion clinic. I took her down
I dropped the stick I'd been poking the coals with and stared at Tom. Except for the
wind in the trees and the snapping of our fire it was quiet for a long time. I couldn't
believe this was the same man who for years had been so outspoken against abortion. He and
his wife had even volunteered at a crisis pregnancy center in his city. Heartsick, I
pressed him about the decision. Tom then made a statement that captured the essence of his
problem...and the problem many others have in entering into genuine rest. In a mechanical
voice, he said "I know what I believe, Tim, but that's different than what I had to
do. I had to make a decision that had the least amount of consequences for the people
Just by the way he said it, I could tell my friend had rehearsed these lines over and
over in his mind. And by the look in his eyes and the emptiness in his voice, I could tell
his words sounded as hollow to him as they did to me.
Tim Kimmel, Little House on the Freeway, pp. 67-70.
Statistics and Commentary
In his book I Surrender, Patrick Morley writes that the church's integrity problem is
in the misconception "that we can add Christ to our lives, but not subtract sin. It
is a change in belief without a change in behavior." He goes on to say, "It is
revival without reformation, without repentance."
C. Swindoll, John The Baptizer, Bible Study Guide, p. 16.
The question is asked: how can justification take place without the works of the law,
even though James says: "Faith without works is dead"? In answer, the apostle
distinguishes between the law and faith, the letter and grace. The 'works of the law' are
works done without faith and grace, by the law, which forces them to be done through fear
or the enticing promise of temporal advantages. But 'works of faith' are those done in the
spirit of liberty, purely out of love to God. And they can be done only by those who are
justified by faith. An ape can cleverly imitate the actions of humans. But he is not
therefore a human. If he became a human, it would undoubtedly be not by vurtue of the
works by which he imitated man but by virtue of something else; namely, by an act of God.
Then, having been made a human, he would perform the works of humans in proper fashion.
Paul does not say that faith is without its characteristic works, but that it justifies
without the works of the law. Therefore justification does not require the works of the
law; but it does require a living faith, which performs its works.
"Faith and holiness are inextricably linked. Obeying the commands of God usually
involves believing the promises of God."
J. Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness, p. 145.