Acton Institute Powerblog

Faith through failing works?

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The Civil Society Trust reviews Jay Richards’ book “Money, Greed and God” (buy it here) and reflects on government compassion.

We can read in Genesis that man was created by God, in His own image. Richards expands on that in a way that struck me as particularly novel. If God is the Creator with a capital ‘C’, then being created in His image, mankind has been endowed with the ability to create as well — we are creators with a little ‘c’. And mankind’s progress through history, with all of our worldly creations, should demonstrate that. But what have we “created” via our government, in the name of compassion? Is it working?

At the end of the day, most of the programs and policies of government initiated in the name of helping people amount to rounding up resources from the private sector and redistributing them to others. And there are plenty of people who argue we need to do more of that. But if these programs and policies are in fact not working, or perhaps even making things worse, and yet we continue to do them, I would suggest that we are ignoring the original goal of helping others and instead focusing on how these programs make us feel instead.

My guess is that it is a very rare sermon that gets into these areas. That is a shame, because it flies in the face of what believers in God are taught. As Saint James wrote (James 2:14-26 NRSV), “faith without works is dead.” But is faith though repeatedly failing works alive?

Read The Costs of False Compassion on the Civil Society Trust.

John Couretas John Couretas is Director of Communications, responsible for print and online communications at the Acton Institute. He has more than 20 years of experience in news and publishing fields. He has worked as a staff writer on newspapers and magazines, covering business and government. John holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in the Humanities from Michigan State University and a Master of Science Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University.


  • Excellent point, John. It’s often said in 12 Step meetings and elsewhere that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

  • Roger McKinney

    I highly recommend Jay Richards’ book “Money, Greed and God”. It’s one of the best defenses of capitalism there is. I only wish he had included something about the Late Scholastics and their discoveries of the main foundations of capitalism.

  • Cristina

    Great point! It has everything to do with selfishness and conceit: when helping others is not ABOUT others but instead it’s about US, then there’s more left to chance -and therefore to failure- than if it were the other way around.
    Interesting blog, by the way.