"What Good Is It?"
What is faith? There are so many elements discussed on “faith” in the Scripture, but it’s interesting that some of the most basic and foundational aspects of faith go completely against the way faith is perceived in the religious world today. Is faith simply a “belief,” an acknowledgement that Jesus is the Son of God? Is it simply asking Jesus to come into your heart and fill your life? Or does faith at it’s core involve something more?
Let’s consider something from the NT writer James in James 2:14 where he asks a really important question:
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
James goes on to answer that question with an illustration in verses 15-17:
“If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them Go in peace, be warmed and filled, without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?
James asks the question “what good is it just speaking words?” Words without action accomplish absolutely nothing. How immature of us to think that wishing someone to be filled will actually bring it about. No, but faith is demonstrated, proven, made genuine by accompanying action. That’s why James says in verse 17 “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
Still, James continues to solidify his argument by providing concrete examples from Scripture of those who demonstrated true faith by the things they did. Abraham was justified when his faith was demonstrated by his willingly putting his son on the altar. His faith was demonstrated with accompanying action. How different would the story read if the LORD spoke to Abraham asking him to do these great things and Abraham responded with “no, my “faith” should be enough.” How arrogant that would be of him. Who of us would look on that as being commendable? Wouldn’t we question the faith of Abraham? When it comes to words of “professing that Jesus is Christ,” James says that even the demons do that (v. 19). We have examples of that in Scripture - Mark 1:24 and Luke 4:34 both give examples of where the demons identify and acknowledge that Jesus is the Holy One of God. But were these demons saved by their confession and acknowledgement? Nobody would say that! What distinguishes true and sincere faith from counterfeit faith? It’s action! Verse 20 mentions something that is important to consider:
“Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?”
James points out that to think of faith as being separate and independent of works is a sign or a proof of folly. Folly simply means a “lack of good sense.” Why would he possibly say that? Well let’s think about it in our own relationships. Wives, you’ve heard your husband say the words (at least I hope that you have) many times “I love you.” Those are meaningful words, but only if accompanied by action, right? What if they say those words but they don’t spend any time with you, don’t speak kindly to you, always complain about things you do, etc…? Those words would be really hard to believe wouldn’t they? As a matter of fact they would actually show you that those words are not true. Because love is not just a matter of mere words, but something that is demonstrated day after day. In the same way, faith is something that is demonstrated day after day. True faith acts (proactively) in faithful ways.
One last thing I want to draw your attention to in the last verse of the chapter (26):
“For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”
Can you tell the different between a dead person and a living person? You’re probably thinking “what kind of question is that?!” Of course we can! James is essentially saying that just as obvious as the difference is between the dead and the living is the difference between mere words and a faith that is demonstrated. One is the way of folly, the other is faith in sincerity. One is dead (mere words), the other is very much alive (faith with accompanying action). Does this working faith bring us to the point where we have deserved salvation by our works? Absolutely not. Nothing we do makes us worthy of salvation. But what a living and working faith DOES do is give us access to God’s grace. He wants to see the people whom He has loved loving Him back. And for the people seeking to follow Him with every aspect of their being He has assured His saving grace.
Have you considered the way you have been living? Would you consider the life you have been living day in and day out as a way of true, living, sincere faith? When we think about the word “faithful” what do you think about? Many people interpret that as simply having become a Christian. Some interpret it as going to church. The meaning of the word “faithful” though is defined within itself. All you have to do is simply put the end of the word at the front : to be “faithful” is to be “full of faith.” That means living a life that is clear and evident to others that you are FULL of faith. Is that clear and evident from your life? It should be a very much visible thing. Is it?
Deuteronomy 7:9 among other passages speak of the faithfulness of God. How do we know those words to be true? Because He has proven it to us time and time again as we read of His working among His people. He has always acted in ways that show His faithfulness. Are you acting in ways that show yours? Could it be written of me “Jason is a faithful servant of the Lord who serves Him every day with every ounce of his being?” Could it be said of you?
My prayer is that we consider these things today and every day as we seek to draw nearer to Him. He is seeking to fashion us in His very image. God is faithful.