James 2:17: “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
James stops dancing around the issue and boldly proclaims the importance of works in the life of a believer. Often people confuse the “dead faith” in James with “no faith,” but that isn’t the case at all. If something is dead, that means at one point it was alive, and it was working. Dead faith is unproductive and unprofitable. By definition, a dead faith has no life.
Similarly, a belief in the truth will produce the behavior of truth. Remember what James says in 1:22: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
When James says, “Faith by itself, if not accompanied by action…,” he is clearly saying that faith and works should be married. You shouldn’t have one without the other. The rest of the New Testament agrees (keep in mind our discussion on the Royal Law):
1 John 3:17-18: “17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
If someone knocks on your door at night asking for food and clothes, FEED THEM! Don’t merely say, “Let’s pray and ask God to provide” or say, “Let’s study the Bible and get spiritually nourished,” and then go back to your dinner. FEED THEM!
Galatians 5:6: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
Circumcision was often symbolic of works-based righteousness. Don’t get the cart before the horse. Faith comes first, and then we work out of our faith.
Some questions to consider:
-Are you still trying to work your way into God’s good graces? Stop! Jesus did that for you.
-How are faith and works married in your life?
-How can you encourage those around you to not only have faith but demonstrate it in acts of love and charity?