The Undoing of Doers

PB often addresses the dynamic of faith + works by using the illustration of a man in a rowboat. One paddle is called “faith” the other paddle is called “works”. What happens when he uses only one paddle? He goes in circles, of course. The two oars must work in tandem to get anywhere.

There’s a danger in encouraging believers to start doing.
They might overdo it.
They might become undone.

There’s great temptation to jump into all manner of good activities, worthy causes, and virtuous projects. Because there are so many needs in this world, we have no shortage of options. Deserving programs and service organizations are longing for people to step up and contribute. So why do intentions that begin with enthusiasm and energy often fizzle out? Is it possible to have so many irons in the fire, that we’re putting out the fire?

Three questions come to mind as I read James’ exhortation to “be doers”.

  1. Every good idea is probably a good idea, but is every good idea a God idea? Am I concocting a noble list of good deeds and then sallying forth with the words, “Come along with me, God. I hope You can keep up!”?
  2. Is swinging like a pendulum between periods of great faith and seasons of good deeds effective? Am I just changing paddles and the direction of my circle? Is it possible to strike a balance of doing good deeds with great faith?
  3. Am I confusing the command to “be a doer of the Word” with “being a doer”? In the book of James alone, there are 54 imperatives, or commands. For example:
  • “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19) Am I being a doer of those words?
  • “Look after orphans and widows in their distress.” (James 1:27)
    Do I know any lonely children or widows I could help out?
  • “Don’t criticize and speak evil about each other.” (James 4:11)
    Are my words honoring my brothers and sisters in Christ?

I don’t need to join a club or create an Excel spreadsheet or work myself into a tizzy of activity. I need to listen for the voice of my Good Shepherd saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” And then walk in it.

So many questions. And here is one more from former U. S. Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall:

“I wonder what would happen if we all agreed to read one of the Gospels until we came to a place that told us to do something, then went out to do it, and only after we had done it, began reading again?”

Perhaps James is saying,
“Yes, let’s be doers.
Let’s just make sure
we’re doing
what God wants,
at God’s pace,
in God’s strength.”

5 thoughts on “The Undoing of Doers

  1. Your quote from the Senate Chaplain stopped me right in my tracks. Such a good convicting truth. Thank you!

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