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March 4, 2012

Question: Which is more important in your religion — faith or works?

Today’s question indicates that the dynamic of faith and works can refer to the life of any believer, regardless of the faith tradition. For every religion is based on faith, and every religion stresses the importance of doing good deeds or “good works.”

In a Bahá’í context, the question takes on a capital importance. For faith or belief can be expressed only by two means: words and deeds. Every believer, consequently, should strive for the coherence of words and deeds.

Regarding deeds, Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), the Prophet-Founder of the religion, has written, “By my life! All that are on earth shall pass away, while good deeds alone shall endure; to the truth of My words God doth Himself bear witness” (The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 44). In his ethical work, The Hidden Words, he emphatically stressed the importance of deeds: “O Son of Dust! Verily I say unto thee: Of all men the most negligent is he that disputeth idly and seeketh to advance himself over his brother. Say, O brethren! Let deeds, not words, be your adorning” (no. 5, from the Persian).

However, in a challenging statement, Bahá’u’lláh erased the line between faith and works. He prescribed belief in the Prophet (“Manifestation of God”) when he appears (faith) and the observance of his laws and teachings (deeds) as being inseparable “twin duties.”

“The first duty prescribed by God for His servants is the recognition of Him Who is the Day Spring of His Revelation and the Fountain of His laws, Who representeth the Godhead in both the Kingdom of His Cause and the world of creation… It behoveth every one who reacheth this most sublime station, this summit of transcendent glory, to observe every ordinance of Him Who is the Desire of the world. These twin duties are inseparable. Neither is acceptable without the other” (Gleanings, p. 330).
-  Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen March 4, 2012
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