Sometimes, when I’m driving my son to school in the morning, I listen to a nationally known Protestant theologian on the car radio. His current series of talks has to do with the cornerstone of the Reformation, “justification by faith alone.” I got to talking with a priest friend of mine about this and he pointed out that while faith is undeniably of great importance, if it’s genuine it automatically generates works. One cannot say with conviction that he/she believes and then does nothing about it. Works are necessary to manifest our commitment to what we believe.
Thus, my perception of any controversy here is typified by the gospel story about the son who tells his father he will do something, but he doesn’t; and the son who refuses his father, but then changes his mind and does what the father asks. More to the point, it’s about the “yes-saying / no doer” versus the “ no-saying / yes doer.” Which one is justified? This is not, by any means a Catholic / Protestant thing because within both persuasions these individuals exist. How many times do my mind and mouth speaks “yes” to You, but my heart is far from You? My actions speak “no.” It also happens at times that I realize my heart and actions are saying “no” and I start over again by retooling them into a “yes.” There is more to my allowing You to save me than my mental and/or verbal ascent to that belief. To simply say I believe in You, or, I believe that because of Your love I am redeemed (justified), and do nothing about it is to be the “yes-saying / no-doing” son.
Faith generates works. When we sin, we DO something against the will of Him in whom, ostensibly, we have faith. To say “yes, You are God and I believe in You at the same time one is saying “no, Your will is not my will” – is to indulge in the hypocrisy of the Pharisees which You condemned. If it was Your mission, Jesus, to DO the will of Him who sent You; and if You were sent to show us how to live, then to DO as You DO is to DO the will of God.
When You spoke on the mount of the beatitudes, in each instance You spoke of the blessedness of DOING something. Even the Ten Commandments are based on DOING OR NOT DOING certain things. Granted, first, all of this is based on faith in You. But to stop at only faith is like telling a loved one that You trust them but you’d rather do it yourself, however their knowing that you believe in them should be enough.
The devil not only knows You better than I do, but he believes in You more strongly than I do; yet, because of his pride in himself and in his ability to be independently self-fulfilling he hates You; and so, his works, what he DOES is motivated by hatred of You and pride in his own ability to do something by himself. Sometimes it seems the things I DO abandon my dependency on You just like the devil. This is sin. The more I learn to trust and totally depend on You in everything I DO the better I will understand the relationship of faith to works. Love is not love until you give it away – and there are all kinds of ways, if I believe in You, of DOING this.