Aim: To realise that faith and work are complementary aspects of our spiritual growth, and that true work is done with love.
Faith without works is dead (Jas 2:14-17.21-24.26): What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill”, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. […] Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness”, and he was called the friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. […] For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.
Warning against idleness (2 Thess 3:6-13): Now we exhort you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you,and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labour we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.
St. James and St. Paul are very realistic in their effort to dismantle the limiting belief that, alone, either faith or work could suffice to make us right before God. The risk is that faith alone may generate a state of idleness and work alone may weaken the spirit of faith. The truth is that, one cannot stand without the other. And both cannot work together without love.
Kahlil Gibran writes in his famous book, The Prophet: “When you work you fulfil a part of earth’s furthest dream assigned to you when that dream was born, and in keeping with labour you are in truth loving life. And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret. And what is it to work with love? It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth. It is to build a house with affection, even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house. It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit. It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit, and to know that all the blessed dead are standing about you and watching. Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms from those who work with joy. For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger. And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distils a poison in the wine. And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man’s ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night”.
Personal Reflection and Sharing
What is my experience of relationship between work and faith?
If there is any imbalance, how do I describe it? And how does it make me feel?