Faith is Action

North Window, Arches National Park, Utah
North Window, Arches National Park, Utah

I was reading a book this week that talked about faith.  The book said that there are two words for faith in the Bible – Pistis (Greek) and Aman (Hebrew).  While they’re related, the two words don’t mean exactly the same thing.

Haybales along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia
Haybales along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia

The word Pistis (Greek for faith) is a belief in the truth or reality of something.  We have faith in a person’s integrity because we believe that they have that personal quality.  We have faith that God exists.  We might even say that we have faith in our senses; that they’re telling us the truth.  Pistis is a noun (person, place, or thing), and it’s closely related to our word of “being persuaded.”

Near the White Rim Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Near the White Rim Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

The word Aman (Hebrew for faith) is a bit different: It’s a verb (action word) that suggests belief in a way that confirms or supports the belief.  (The words in Hebrew that are most often translated “faith” – Emunah and Amanah – are both derived from the verb Aman.)  In other words, the Hebrew expression of faith isn’t just a blind belief in the reality of something.  It’s actively supporting the belief and living in such a way that confirms the belief in your life.

Scrambling up Willow Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California
Scrambling up Willow Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

A preacher I heard translated “faith” as, “acting on the revelation of God.”  Faith isn’t just sitting around eating carrot sticks and stating that we believe God exists.  That’s the beginning of faith (Hebrews 11:6), but it’s not the end.  It’s the intellectual Greek kind of faith that relegates faith to something done with the brain.

A sliver of a moon over the Alabama Hills, California
A sliver of a moon over the Alabama Hills, California

But the Hebrew, Aman, kind of faith is action.  It’s taking hold of the intellectual belief and doing something with it – acting on belief.  The action supports and confirms the mental belief and brings the reality of the belief into our here and now.

A little waterfall on Panther Brook, Adirondack Park, New York
A little waterfall on Panther Brook, Adirondack Park, New York

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  Given the Hebrew understanding of faith, this isn’t so much a blind act of the mind as it is a display of how we take what God says and (with Him) make the reality of what He says seeable with our human eyes.  Faith is active.

Black-eyed Susans at the Ek Birding Trail, New York
Black-eyed Susans at the Ek Birding Trail, New York

For example, we can say that we have faith that God will fulfill His promises to us – for example, that He will give us the good job that He said He would.  If we settle for the Greek understanding of faith, we’ll keep the faith as a mental “somewhere, sometime” kind of belief.  And when the job does come, we’ll applaud God on His goodness.  But if we enter into the Hebrew idea of faith, we can move with God to bring the reality of the perfect job into being – acting on the belief and in the process becoming closer to God and His heart for us.