Faith As an Excuse
. . . Work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
Recovery from an addiction takes hard work and commitment to lasting change, which is why so many struggle to find it. We’ve spent years training (damaging) our brains to behave in such a way and it takes a tremendous amount of work, time, and effort to undo that damage. For the addicted, this is a problem because we usually just take the easy way out of everything. Change is hard work, which we avoid whenever possible.
So, when a well-meaning Christian comes along and says, “You don’t have to do anything. Just put your faith in Christ and presto! Your addiction will be gone!”, the addicted is an easy target. All he hears is, “I don’t have to do anything except believe”, and he’s sold. Then, when he believes in God but still struggles, when he still relapses, he feels cheated and abandoned.
Some people do experience instant miraculous change. I can’t deny that. I did not though. God asked me to obey him and to change my life. I argued with him, insisting that faith meant I didn’t have to do anything. Faith was my excuse not to go to treatment, not to go to meetings, and to change nothing. I simply prayed that God would take away my appetite for drugs. My do-nothing faith actually became a barrier to my recovery, as long as I insisted on doing it my way.
Something similar occurred with the Christians in Thessalonica apparently. Once they learned of Christ and his second coming, they decided they didn’t need to work anymore. If Jesus is coming back any day, why go to work? They began to be dependent on the charity of others and in doing so, they lost honor and respect. Paul chastised them, telling them to get back to work. He was not about to allow faith to become their excuse to be lazy.
We’re often tempted to do the same. When we’re struggling with finances, marriage, anxiety, raising our children, or conflict with others, God often asks that we obey him, doing something. Maybe we need counseling. Maybe we need to radically change our behavior. Often though, we choose to believe that faith means that we should just sit back and let God handle it. Faith though, isn’t an excuse to do nothing.
Faith means believing in God and then behaving accordingly. Faith is belief translated into action. Daily we must ask, What do you want me to do here God? Then we must do it. A do-nothing faith is usually just an excuse to avoid authentic change.