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Good works

If our beliefs have meaning, we must act as if our souls depend on it.
By Jeffrey A. Lockwood
Fall 2010 9.1.10

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(© Zdenek Bohm/iStockphoto)

So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. (James 2:17)

In our modern age of apathy and egoism, there is cause for hope whenever people care about something beyond themselves. But there is more to being human than feeling deeply, for we risk becoming impassioned fools. Our minds must conspire with our hearts. We should care enough to think—and think with great care.

No human endeavor shows the double-edged nature of caring like religion, with its boundless capacity to foster our humanity and its vulnerability to thoughtless passion. In a world of suffering, a moral life means not merely believing the right things but doing good works.

What does it mean that Jesus was divine, if we treat the homeless man in the alley as less than human?

What does it mean for God to be all powerful, if we don’t use our power to help others?

What does it mean that the Bible was divinely inspired, if we write laws that are profane?

What does it mean for there to be a heaven, if the hell of violence burns next door?

What does it mean that Mary was a virgin, if we do not heed the cries of women being raped or abused?

What does it mean to be “saved,” when a child loses all hope?

What does it mean for God to have declared that Creation was good, if seventy species disappear every day?

Many people care about religious matters, but James asks us, “What is the good of that?” If our beliefs have meaning—if we care about divinity, God’s power, ancient wisdom, heaven, miraculous birth, salvation, and all of Creation—we must act as if our souls depend on it. As Gandhi taught, you must be the change you want to see in the world. Let us build a life in which our work speaks for our faith.

God of heaven, eternal spirit, help me to care about things that matter most. My tears are for the homeless, the helpless, the abused and violated. I care about the divine because I care about them. (Matthew and Gail Tittle)


Reprinted with permission from Bless All Who Serve: Sources of Hope, Courage and Faith for Military Personnel and Their Families, edited by Matthew and Gail Tittle (Skinner House), ©2010 Unitarian Universalist Association.

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