Living by Faith
Lord, make me a person of godly action and not of godly words only.
Read James 2:14–26
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 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? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
18 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. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Grace and active obedience are complementary. There is no faith without good works, and no good works apart from faith” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1906–1945).
James has already warned about the sin of favoritism (2:9), and here he highlights the perversion of calling oneself a person of faith without the true sacrifice that faith requires: “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic. 6:8). Claiming to have faith while denying its obligations doesn’t pass the smell test. James uses the examples of Abraham and Rahab to convince his Jewish readers that faith must be acted on, because God has always required it and rewarded it.
Paul teaches that we are “saved through faith—and this is not from
yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8,9). James is not preaching another Gospel here; rather, he is arguing passionately for a true understanding of the nature of faith. He is in agreement with Paul about this doctrine, rather than at variance; recall that Paul immediately goes on to inform the Ephesians that “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).
“The righteous will live by faith” (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11). Faith is a gift from our God, who is so good and kind to us that he rescued us from darkness and brought us into his family. Our faith must reflect the character of God: loving, merciful, generous-hearted, sacrificial—otherwise it is not faith at all but worthless religion. Faith undergirds service of God and his
kingdom. Faith moves us to deny ourselves to help our needy brothers and sisters locally and around the world: they are our family in Christ, and their welfare becomes our family obligation. What sort of person would neglect his or her family in need?
James says he will show you his faith by his works (18). Can others
identify you as a Christian by virtue of the works they observe in your life?
Lord, preserve me from religion without love and true faith. Reveal
any hypocrisy and selfishness in me. May I see the needs of Your people and be their servant.