“But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” (James 2:20-24 KJV)
This is a very powerful example that is drawn from a well known story from a well known ancestor to James’ audience. We are reminded of the story from Genesis 22. The interesting thing to me about this story which allowed Abraham to demonstrate his faith by what he did is the much greater faith that someone else had which allowed this to come to full fruition. Was not Isaac’s faith at least as great if not greater? I know Isaac was the son Abraham loved and it was difficult for him to process as he lead him alone out to that alter, so I do not want to take away from that. Perhaps children were generally more obedient to their parent’s back then. Yet, is there not an enormous credit to a young teen-age son to stick with his aged dad even when everyone else is gone? Even when he gets put on an alter and the knife comes out? No scream for help? No struggle? No cat calls regarding the mad man his dad had seemingly become in a rash moment in his old age? Clearly Isaac was putting the pieces together when he asked about the lack of a ram on the way up. I think when we speak of the faith someone has as demonstrated by his works that we would be negligent if we also did not notate the faith of those around him that had to allow this faith to come to it’s fullest fruition.
Consider how the story may have changed if Isaac had made a quick determination that Ishmael may have been the lucky one getting put out of the house at an early age and left to seek lodging with him? Perhaps if Isaac had overpowered his old man and brought him back down the mountain to have him undergo sensitivity training and learn proper child care procedures? Our imaginations could go wild very quickly. The interesting question that we never see formally processed in Isaac is, what did he have to suppress or just bear with to allow for a full obedience to his dad? Something inside Isaac had to give up something he had a right to in order to allow God to finish the work that he had for his dad. This somewhat reminds me of something Paul mentions much later on. “But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?” (1 Corinthians 6:6-7 KJV)
This brings us to a difficult intersection. The manager side of us tells us not to enable otherwise foolish and destructive behavior to continue. I cannot say that such logic is all bad. Yet, the surrender in us realizes that David is accurate when he says that all things are God’s. I think rather than actually answering this delima out right, it would be best to simply read David’s words and consider the vastly more capable hands of God and their healing, strengthening, directing, and loving capacities. It is a difficult question, but it becomes easier the more closely we gaze on the face of God.
“Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.” (1 Chronicles 29:11-12 KJV)