Readings for the Day
Isaiah 32-35, James 2
Verses for the Day
Faith and Deeds
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.
Thoughts for the Day
The book of James is often misunderstood because of its emphasis on works. Some theologians, including Martin Luther, were not too fond of it. James is dealing with a situation where the Christians were neglecting the poor and favoring the rich. See the rest of the chapter. And while James is not saying that faith is not needed, or that somehow our works justify us before God. What he is saying that is if faith does not lead to works, especially to those in need, it is dead. It is not living and active. Would anyone disagree with that statement?
It doesn't necessarily mean that they don't have faith, but it is not active in love. Part of trusting in Jesus in faith is also having faith to do the works he has showed us to do. One could say that if someone has a living faith in Jesus, they can't but help do the works he prescribed for us to do. As we are transformed by saving faith, we are given the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit leads us to do good works, and reach out to those in need, both in the body of Christ and in the world. Another way of looking at dead faith is someone who quenches the Spirit. It doesn't mean they don't have the Holy Spirit. We don't ever lose the Spirit, but we are not living by it and fanning into flame the gift that is given to us by God when we come to faith.
While we are not saved by works, we are created in Christ to do good works. In another context Jesus tells us to let our light shine and be the salt of the world. As we see what is happening in our world today, Christians need to stand up and be counted. When evil abounds, grace needs to abound. We are told in the bible to overcome evil with good. That doesn't happen by us sitting around and complaining about how bad things are out there.
What good is it my brothers to claim to have faith and not participate in good deeds? While salvation is God's gift to us, we are saved to serve. We are saved to consider others interests as greater than our own. That is how our master teacher Jesus asked his disciples to live, and he urges us as his followers today to do the same.