What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
James 2:14-17 (NKJV)
One night, as I sat on the train, I eagerly awaited the moment when I would set foot into the door of my warm apartment. It was about nine degrees outside and the wind chill was almost unbearable.
The next stop would be my stop, so I began to prepare to step into the dreadful cold and freezing winds, by sliding on my gloves and making sure the hood of my coat was nice and secure around my head.
Then, I sat still and quiet, anticipating the moment when the wheels would come to a screeching halt.
Finally, we came to a stop, and the doors opened. As I stepped off the train, I told the conductor “Good night” as I normally do, but instead of telling me good night in return, he hesitated for a moment, looked at me, then nodded and said, “Stay warm.”
I really didn’t know how to respond to that, so I just kind of smiled and walked off.
But as I walked by him, I thought to myself, “Mr. Conductor, unless you’re passing out warm rays of sunshine and packaged heat, staying warm in this weather is not going to be possible!”
I knew he was only trying to be courteous, but unfortunately his words didn’t keep me warm. I still nearly froze on the walk home.
But, as I was struggling to keep my nose from becoming a popsicle, I thought about James 2:14 -17. This passage of scripture reminded me that in some cases, although we may have the best intentions with our words, if there is no action behind them, they are useless.
Think about it. If you’re drowning and a lifeguard yells to you, “Hang in there! I believe you’re going to make it!” What benefit is that to you if they don’t at least throw you a life preserver?
In the same manner, the Bible lets us know that faith without works is pointless. It’s dead.
Now, we know we are not saved by works, however, what we believe inwardly, is made known by our outward actions.
Faith, which is essentially the same thing as trust, leads us to believe something or someone. Because we believe, we are motivated to take action. So, we show our faith and what we believe, by the things that we do. (James 2:18).
For example, if a trusted friend calls at 4 a.m. and tells us they have $5,000 they want to bless us with, just come outside and get it when they pull up, we would already be waiting at the corner with only one shoe on, and in our pajamas.
However, if we did not have faith in this person – if we did not trust them and believe their words, then we would take no action. We would still be asleep in bed.
In the same manner, if we say we trust and believe God, and if we are truly transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, then we naturally do things that show we believe, such as obeying God’s instructions.
When the Holy Spirit comes in and changes us, we obtain a natural desire to do what is pleasing to God. It’s not an option. It’s an automatic feature that comes with the package.
But, if we say we have faith, yet we choose not to do things the Bible tells us, such as forgive and love others, or depart from iniquity, then what good is that faith?
Who does it benefit, and what purpose does it serve, if any? How does it profit the kingdom of God and how does it shine a light for others to see? Isn’t that “faith” just a bunch of empty and meaningless words? A worthless heap of religious jargon?
But, our faith in God is made manifest by the good works that we do. Faith is intangible, so our obedience is a witness to the Lord, to ourselves, and to others, as to what we truly believe in our hearts.
So, the bottom line is, our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ should be something that should be evident in our lives. It should be something that people can see in us, by the way we live.
We are not saved by works, however, good works come as a natural product of a regenerated soul, changed by the Holy Spirit. What we do or don’t do is the evidence of what we really believe – not our words.
So, if we tell a thousand people, “I believe in Jesus,” yet we still live a life of willful disobedience to Him, then we are operating in a dead faith and our words are spoken in vain. It is not pleasing to God.
Not only that, but we are possibly misleading others who may not know Christ, since as it is commonly stated, “Your life may be the only Bible that some people read.” We want to be careful not to present people with a false view of Christianity and a misrepresentation of God.
The Bible teaches that we will know those who are of God by their fruits. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire (Matthew 7:17-20).
As true followers of Jesus Christ, may we always strive toward being the branches that bear good fruit in the name of the Lord, and continue to let our good works flourish as a natural result of the faith that we proclaim.
Lord, if the faith that I speak about doesn’t match the way I live my life, please forgive me, search my heart, and fix what isn’t right. Help me to be obedient to your word and to bear good fruit for your Kingdom. Show me how to let my light shine before men, so that they may see my good works, and so you will be glorified. You alone are worthy of the glory and You alone deserve it.
In Jesus’ name Amen.