We have bumper stickers and Christian messages everywhere in our culture. Some have email address that are Christianized, like “IBelieveInJesusMySavior@howaboutyou.com.” But what good is it if we display or say those things but don’t show it in our lives? Our faith, for it to make a positive difference in the world, needs to be real. This is why James calls us to have genuine faith.
Let’s read James chapter 2:14-26:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 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? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
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. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
James is not the only one who challenges us with this. Jesus himself taught this in Matthew 7:26-27, “But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Some people think that James is saying somehow we have to do stuff to earn our way to God. That is incorrect. That is not what James is arguing for at all.
Genuine faith is demonstrated by our actions.
James is making the point that our salvation is demonstrated by what we do. It comes naturally, because once you are saved you can’t help but to start doing things that demonstrate the salvation that is in us.
Faith and deeds together demonstrate our salvation. Even Paul, the one known for “We are saved by grace alone,” advocates that faith must be an action.
In fact, Paul writes in Ephesians 2:4-10:
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
If you are a believer, if you have put your life and trust in Jesus Christ, you have been born again, you have been given salvation through his blood and his death and resurrection, and you are now adopted as a child of God, which means you have been recreated to do good works. It’s in your new nature now.
Do you want more faith? Do acts of mercy. Do you want more faith? Act and love others the way you love yourself. Every time you put your faith into action, your faith will grow.
When we do take those moments and put our faith into action, isn’t it true that we are strengthened, encouraged, and emboldened to do it again? Paul wrote in Galatians 5:6b “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
My challenge for you and me is to take one more step, two steps, baby steps, of putting our faith on display. Our love, lack of favoritism, what is sometimes called our “works”, demonstrate our salvation. Let us put our faith on display through our actions and our love for others. Then the world will know that Jesus Christ is our Lord.
Today, look for three ways to demonstrate your genuine faith, that your faith is alive, by putting it into action.