What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?…faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
As a former science teacher I am inclined to perk up when I consider a spiritual concept that can be discussed in an empirical manner. Faith is a concept, a state of being, an abstract idea. However, we are called to have a faith that is living. These two things don’t, seemingly, fit together. They are an oxymoron of sorts. But if we take a look at the biological definition of “life,” we begin to understand what James was talking about.
Definition of Life
In biology, a living organism is defined as something that has the following characteristics:
- It undergoes metabolism
- Metabolism is defined as the set of chemical reactions that take place in order to maintain life. This would be our spiritual disciplines of prayer, study, fasting, etc.
- It maintains homeostasis
- Homeostasis is the ability to regulate the internal environment and maintain a stable, constant condition. For me, this would equate best to our morality and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. However, I also am drawn to the idea of God’s provision and our contentment in all situations.
- It possesses the capacity to grow
- Growth can be both physical and abstract, where abstract growth includes becoming more complex and more mature. This one is self-explanatory.
- It responds to stimuli
- Stimuli are detectable changes in the internal or external environments. The fact that we respond to change is not necessarily important in our faith, but the question of how we respond becomes paramount.
- It reproduces
- This one is important. Perhaps it’s easy to grow and maintain homeostasis individually, but are we reproducing our faith in others (our children, our spouses, our friends, etc.)?
- It adapts to its environment
- As stimuli come, we not only respond, but, hopefully, we change as a result.
So, is your faith alive? Do you fit all the qualifications for life? What parts of your faith life do you need to nurture? Can your faith be considered alive if you do not fully fit all of the qualifications for life?