from St Anselms Chapel Center @ USF
If you have ever tried to row a boat, you know that to go forward you have to pull with both oars. If you only paddle on one side of the boat, you will end up just going around in circles! In fact, to say that someone “doesn’t have both oars in the water” means that they don’t know what they are doing and they are just being foolish.
James is talking about the two oars that pull us forward in Christian living: faith and works. You must have both or you will end up just running around in circles! Just talking about faith doesn’t mean you have it. For example, if you see an old friend dressed in rags and starving and you say “Jesus loves you! Have a great day!” but you don’t do anything to help them, your “faith” isn’t real.
James says: “I by my works will show you my faith.” Good works alone aren’t enough; we don’t “earn” our way into heaven by doing more good deeds than the other people around us. We certainly don’t do good deeds to make ourselves look important or to feel good. Instead, our good works are a response to the faith we have in God and a way we make that faith visible to everyone around us.
Faith and works are so closely tied together that they are like a physical body and the spirit of the person who lives in that body. If you take away the life spirit of that person, the body by itself would be dead. Faith without some sort of works is dead too. Take a moment today to think about how you respond to God’s love? What are your works of faith?
And try to keep both oars in the water!