Today we read the challenging second chapter of James which tells us it is not enough to just talk about our faith, it has to become evident by what we do. James bluntly wrote, “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (verse 17). James was writing to believers among the twelve tribes (verse 1) who were scattered abroad; obviously he had already given this message to the believers in Jerusalem. Many Jews were still struggling with issues over keeping the Mosaic law and he makes the point, “whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it” (verse 10).
Abstaining from the worldly ways of living is only one part of the matter. While this is vital, believers in every race and every generation must realize there has to be a positive side to their way of living. Jesus told a parable about the house (mind) of a man that was cleaned out of all bad things, but because it was left empty, tragedy followed (Matthew 12:43-45). We must fill our minds with God’s word.
James uses the example of Abraham, who is an outstanding example of faith, observing, “you see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works” (verse 22). James challengingly asks, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works”. This letter has been preserved by the Spirit, because that question must be asked of all of us.
The chapter ends with the blunt statement “faith apart from works is dead”. When we come to read 1 John we will see how he draws a similar lesson, but expresses it a little differently, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1:6). Yes the truth of God’s words we read each day has no eternal value unless we put it into “practice”.
A final point to remember is that “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy” (Titus 3:5) which compares with Ephesians 2:9 where Paul says salvation is “not a result of works alone”. We see many good works initiated in this country, but so many are not done as a result of faith in God and a heartfelt love of His word.