Today we delve into James 2:14-26. A passage that begins with a question that we can all use to self-reflect on. “What good is it to have faith but no deeds?
In Hebrews 11:1 we read that “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” We hope in Christ and our certainty is in our salvation through Him. The promise of reconciliation with God was followed through with the cross to make that reconciliation a reality for those who believe in Him.
Our Faith/ our intellectual acceptance of certain truths, if not followed through with deeds that evidence the spiritual reality of our salvation and the process of our sanctification, truly reflect genuine saving Faith? As James questions – “Can such faith save him?” True faith saves and is reflective of a changed heart because of the presence and grace of God.
Scripture states we are a new creation in Christ – what change has the grace of God brought about within you? If our actions are not reflective of the faith we claim to have, is that even considered Genuine Faith.
We have a saviour whom we can cry out to, depend, lean and turn to. But a true litmus test to the effect that grace has on us is often best seen in the way we show love and care for others, not in words alone, but the sacrificial kind that goes beyond comfort and self and just cares.
James proceeds to give us an example “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?
This example points out that if we have the means to help another and yet all we offer is empty words, in what way are we reflecting the faith that God asks us to have, that tells us to love our neighbour as ourselves. The story of the good Samaritan comes to mind (Luke 10:25-37). Jesus gave us this example, reminding us what caring for another should look like, the Samaritan came across someone in dire need, no previous acquaintance, no personal benefit, but only compassion for another made in the image of God.
In verse 17 we read “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” A dead faith is a useless faith, neither doing good for the one who claims to proclaim such faith nor does it reach out effectually towards another giving a taste of the love they can experience with Jesus.
James then goes on to explain ways in which we can justify deedless faith.
Verse 18-19 “But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds. Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.”
James denies the possibility of true faith and deeds existing independently of each other. In our times today, we can be quick to say, I just do things my way and this is the way I express my faith and we can justify our own way of being a Christian.
If we reduce our faith to only chatter, claiming the right doctrine and theology and but do not put our flesh to the test by living it out, James reminds us that all we accomplish is the same as that of the demons. The demons too acknowledge the presence of one God, they have the right theology. But does that knowledge impact their actions? Does that knowledge lead them away from their sinful ways?
James then delves into the Old Testament and gives us two contrasting but powerful examples, Abraham and Rahab, they both illustrate the same point, of faith substantiated by action. Abraham was willing to offer Isaac on the altar, when God tested his obedience. The very same promise of a child, that Abraham stepped out of God’s timing to try and have. His actions then did not reflect the trust that he showed later. But we see Abraham grow to have such faith. We can grow too, to have faith that does not fall short in action.
Rahab, although well know for how she helped those spies, was not an epitome of godly living as a prostitute. But her story reminds us that we can start somewhere, our mistakes do not need to define our future call to live for God.
God did not hold Abraham’s earlier shortcomings to grow him into a stronger faith and nor did Rahab’s earlier actions make what she did in obedience to God any less important.
James writes in verse 26 “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”
Faith that saves produces good deeds. The grace of God can change a lifeless faith to a life-giving faith. It requires a surrender of self and desire followed by intended action.
Let’s compare the rich young ruler and the tax collector Zacchaeus. The rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-27), desired to follow Jesus, but he could not substantiate his claims to want to live for Jesus with his actions of letting go of His riches which was his stumbling block in following Jesus.
But Zacchaeus, what did he do, Luke 19:8-9 “But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now, I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.”
How does your faith move you to obey God? These words by James are not to stir guilt within that drives action nor does it contradict the truth that we are saved by grace alone and not our works, but encourages us to look within our hearts and reflect with honesty if our actions live up to what we believe in. May the Lord show us where we are truly at, so that we can lay it all before God and genuinely seek to grow in our faith, that is not in mere words alone and as such dead but a saving, lifegiving faith.