Faith into action
Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. James 2:15-17
There have always been people who suggest that James and the apostle Paul disagreed with one another. Paul was absolutely clear that no amount of good works could ever earn us salvation. In Ephesians 2:8 he says: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
In today’s verses, James is clearly saying that good works are absolutely vital as well. I don’t believe James and Paul did disagree with one another, however. It is true James wanted to stress the importance of good works, but not as a way of gaining salvation. He saw good works as the inevitable consequence of being saved. His concern was to see the reality of people’s faith at work. If it didn’t lead to action, it was dead.
The illustration James offers us is really painful. He pictures a Christian who meets a person in obvious need. A warm and caring greeting is given but nothing else. They just walk on by, doing nothing to help the situation. This is a challenge for all of us isn’t it? When we see someone in need and do nothing, it loudly suggests that our faith is just a pile of empty words. Nothing else.
This doesn’t mean we must take on every single burden that we spot. That just isn’t possible. But God does call us to do what we can. I wonder what needs you are aware of at the moment among the people you know. You may know people who are unwell, bereaved, lonely, elderly or sad. I believe James’ words tell us that the one option that we don’t have is to do nothing. We may be able to respond immediately, by offering to visit, taking a meal, sending a card or giving them a lift somewhere. However, many people will be more effectively helped by other professionals and organisations. Many churches may have a pastoral team, and this is a wise way of seeking to respond practically to some people’s needs.
We can’t always do everything, but if we have faith, we must do something to help those in need.
Who are you able to support in practical ways?
Loving God, help me to see the ways in which I can turn my faith into action today. Amen