Re-Angling Works vs. Faith: A Discussion About Personal Control
No matter who we are, what we’ve done, or where we are from; irrespective of age, race, height, gender, sexuality, social status, economic standing, etc., all of us human beings are subject to a universal reality: we have some things under our control, and some things outside of our control.
There are occurrences and factors in life that are malleable via personal action, but there are others that are unchangeable regardless of all the effort in the world. Yes, effort and human will can overcome much, however, divine detriments are historically undefeated. The Christian theologian observes this reality in the overdrawn doctrinal debate that has been a hot topic and a bane of my Christian existentialism for years. That debate is the seeming contradiction between faith and works.
The traditional Christian discussion often pits the two variables against one another - faith vs. works; however, I have realized more recently that, rather than being a thorn in my side, this doctrine was given to me by the good Papa above for the sake of my peace. The works vs. faith dichotomy is not a stumbling block, rather a cornerstone to healthy Christian living. That is, it’s an antidote, or a solution, not a problem as so many Christians have made it out to be.
In the classic debate of faith versus works, there exists an all-too-evident tension between belief dwelling optimism and personal responsibility. This tension actually holds a simple truth. As mentioned at the very beginning of this piece, human beings have certain things under their control and other things beyond their control.
The human is called to works, that is to do something to control that which he can control. Simultaneously he is called to faith, that is to surrender and let go of all that is outside of his control [to a higher power]. Having a head full of dreams and beliefs without action and ownership will lead to poverty; poverty not of the financial kind, but of a spiritual one. On the other hand, there is no need in being anxious about that which is uncontrollable. The Bible, specifically the poetic proverbs and the parables of Jesus, call for undying, wholistic faith and trust, while also encouraging investment, diligence, and use of active skill. The two are inseparable, they are indeed two sides of the same coin. The Book of James says, “faith without works is dead.” Expounding on this the Book of Hebrews states that “it is impossible to please God without faith,” that is to say, faithless work is not pleasing to God. Put in another way, faithless work- work that does not accept the randomness of divinity- will always, at one point or another, negatively surprise or disappoint a person.
It could be said that in truth, any sense of control is, in a multi-dimensional reality, an illusion. I concur with this perspective. All sense of security, structure, control, and familiarity is built upon the cultural meanings and contexts that we use as fencing to demarcate our physical and psychological habitats. The reality is that we live in a sea of uncontrollable waves and unforeseen storms. So how shall we exist in this world? Place your foundation on working on that which you can control, while believing for all that which you cannot.