In reading James 2, we are hit with the legalistic soundings of faith without works is dead. There are some short phrases here that make great fridge magnets but tend to lead us to try to get God’s attention by our good behavior.
I want to peel back the surrounding passages and find that the teaching is full of the grace message and how works plays perfectly in line.
Faith Without Works
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? – James 2:14
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. – James 2:18
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. – James 2:19
What you do is important in God’s kingdom. Paul lets us know that we will be rewarded by what we do in this life. We may do nothing to earn rewards, but the lack of good things will not keep us out of heaven (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). Works do not save us (Ephesians 2:8), but they have a part to play.
But do we really need to look elsewhere to understand this passage of works and faith? Let’s take a look at with what context James surrounds these passages.
Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. – James 2:10
Before getting into the discussion about faith without works, James wants to remind us that we cannot depend on our works to justify us. If we stumble at one point, we are guilty of breaking them all. However, there is mercy.
While James does want us to know works are important, let’s not get off track and think that it is everything.
Faith Leads to Action
Do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? – James 2:20
After discussing faith without works, James then leads us into a commentary of the life of Abraham. He is the father of faith, and by his faith it was credited to him as righteousness. The point James pulls out is that Abraham’s faith was working together with his actions. He put his son on the altar in faith that God would do something (Hebrews 11:19).
If Abraham didn’t believe in God’s goodness and if he didn’t believe what was promised would come true, Abraham would have never willingly obeyed the test to sacrifice Issac.
Your Actions Prove Your Faith
We are the same. We may state we have faith, but when it comes to how we live our lives, it becomes evident what we have faith in. A couple weeks ago we discussed that God wants to provide for you. He is our Heavenly Father. It is in His nature to provide for His children. Still, we often worry about our finances. We don’t give to things because we fear we may not have enough for ourselves.
Most of us will admit that there is nothing we can do to earn God’s love. However, if we miss a quiet time or commit a sin, we feel God is disappointed with us and loves us less. Therefore our actions tell us what we really believe. We believe that we need to do good things to earn God’s love.
Will We Step Out In Faith?
I think the biggest fear of stepping out in faith is that God will not come through. But, God coming through does not determine our faith. Our faith is demonstrated in those steps that need God to come through trusting that He will in some way.
Peter’s faith was proved not when he walked on water, but it was proved when he stepped out of the boat.
Where Can We Work Out Our Faith?
I think a very easy step we all can do to work out our faith is to pray with people who are in need. Most of us don’t do this because we don’t know if God will answer our prayers. We don’t want to give false hope.
What we are telling others is we don’t believe God hears our prayers. We have faith that our prayers will not work. Therefore, we don’t pray with others.
Take a step in the opposite direction this week and pray for someone. Pray for healing of their sickness. Pray that God would provide for some need they may have. Pray for families to be restored. Listen to where someone needs God to show up, and then ask them if you can pray with them. Pray with them right then with them listening to your prayers.
Your prayers are powerful. Release them on others this week.
Kevin Shorter is the founder of this prayer-coach site and have served for several years in ministry and churches teaching on a variety of Biblical topics. Go to the contact page to request him to speak at your conferences and seminars.