Faith: Belief or Action?—Emunah

April 1, 2011

by: Rebecca J. Brimmer, International President and CEO

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As we talked, he confessed to me that he was quite curious about the way Christians thought, and so he would often listen in on their conversations with each other after the official meetings were over. He related to me that he discovered as he listened in on hallway conversations that Christians were often arguing about what they believed about something. He went on to tell me some of the things we argue about, such as when the rapture will occur or if our salvation is eternally secure. I was a little bit surprised that he knew so much about our disagreements!

However, then Bernie said something that really shocked me. He told me that it wasn’t that way in Jewish circles. I remember challenging him on that statement saying, “But, there are often discussions and arguments about every kind of subject here in Israel. There is even a joke that says if you have two Jews, you have three opinions.”

 

Photos by www.israelimages.com

Bernie assured me that I was misunderstanding, giving me the following example. He said, “If I am reading the Torah [Gen.–Deut.] and read that I am supposed to keep the Sabbath holy, and I want to understand it better, I look around me and find someone who is keeping the Sabbath.”  Bernie explained, “I wouldn’t ask my friend what he believed about the passage, I would ask him how he did it.” Then he said the words that are forever blazoned on my memory, “Because frankly, Becky, if someone is not doing it, what do I care what they believe.”

Faith Produces Faithfulness

After studying Hebrew, I understand where Dr. Resnikov was coming from. You see, in Hebrew, the word for faith and faithfulness is the same—emunah. The word comes from the root word emun אמון)). The words amen (so be it), eman (to confirm), haemeen (to believe, trust, confide in) all share the same shoresh (root). A covenant, convention, or treaty can also be described by the word amanah, which has the same root. Basically, the idea is that if someone has faith, he will be a faithful, covenant-keeping person. He will have the character trait of faithfulness evident in his daily actions.

Webster’s New World Dictionary describes faith as “unquestioning belief, esp. in God, religion.” This carries with it the connotation of a person having complete trust and reliance in the one they put their faith in. Faithful or faithfulness describes the way someone acts, and the words used by Webster’sto define it are loyal, conscientious, accurate, and exact. The faithful, according to Webster’s, are said to be true believers or loyal followers.

Although the words are clearly related in English, I somehow viewed faith as an internal reality, which had to do with my beliefs or what I thought about something. Faithfulness to me was a totally different concept, which had more to do with what I did. Since living in Israel and coming to understand the Bible from the Hebrew language, I have been challenged to see that these two words are so intertwined that it should be impossible to comprehend how one could have one without the other.

James talks about the concepts of faith (belief) and works (faithfulness) when he says, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works [faithfulness]? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead…Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works and by works faith was made perfect?…For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:14–17, 21–22, 26).

The person whose faith is not deeply rooted in his heart will often not be faithful in his behavior, but the person of real faith will exhibit faithfulness in his actions. Dr. G. Douglas Young, the founder of Bridges for Peace, wrote in the Bible dictionary he authored: “To become a Christian, one must believe, have faith, trust. To live as a practicing and active Christian, one must show faithfulness. It is part of that complex of attributes known as the ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ (Gal. 5:22).”

Faithfulness Glorifies God

Yeshua (Jesus) said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Isn’t it interesting that Yeshua doesn’t say “argue about what you believe” but says that our faithfulness exhibited in good works will bring glory to God?

I pray that you will be filled with emunah. May our faith so fill our hearts and minds that our lives reflect the faithful compassionate God that we serve through our faithful deeds. “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness (emunah)” (Lam. 3:22–23).

 

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