Sunday, May 5, 2013

What We Do vs What We Say

I saw this quote, attributed to Aristotle. It took a very short search to find that was somewhat incorrect. What Aristotle is quoted as saying, "these virtues are formed in men by his doing the actions," was paraphrased by Will Durant: "We are what we repeatedly do,” in The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World’s Greatest Philosophers.

Why did it catch my eye? Because it reminds me of John’s verses:

Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. (James 2:18 KJV)

Or these words from Jesus:

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. (Matthew 23:23 KJV)

Do works save? According to the Bible, no:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV)

Faith saves, but is not as important as love – the agape ἀγάπη love Paul described, translated as ‘charity’:

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (1 Corinthians 13:13 KJV)

Does our faith in God’s ability allow us to love the unlovable? Witness to the neediest sinner? Give our tithes and offerings without concern for a material return? That’s the love under discussion in 1 Corinthians 13. Paul describes what we’re like without love

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 KJV)

James has much more to say about faith without love:

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. (James 2:14-17 KJV)

So, we’re back to “We are what we repeatedly do,” and wondering how that measures up to what we say.  If we say we are Christians, there had better be actions accompanying that or we define ourselves as hypocrites – saying, without doing.

How do we know what we’re supposed to do? The Bible tells us so.

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