Are we most like the person who wishes people well with our words, but never follow through with our actions? Or are we like the person who has head knowledge (doctrinally sound), but fails in doing good works with our hands? I hope we are more often like Abraham, who loved the Lord in word and works, and like Rahab, who loved the Lord’s people in word and works. If we’re honest, we all fall short of glorifying God in our words and our works. Therefore, we are in desperate need of God’s grace.
Doctors tell us that one of the best things we can do for our health is to get moving. In other words, stop the sedentary lifestyle and start skipping rope, skiing, swimming, or the like. Similarly, James tells us that the best thing we can do for our spiritual health is to get going (Jas. 2:14-26). A faith that stays alone is not genuine faith. Good works flow from saving faith. The apostle Paul tells us this as well: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:8-10).
James seeks to awaken his readers from spiritual sloth with two piercing questions: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (Jas. 2:14). James is clearly concerned that some of his readers are deceived about what true faith is and isn’t. We can summarize his questions like this: Is faith without works saving faith?
James illustrates his teaching by first giving an example of words without works (Jas. 2:15). If someone comes to us in need of clothing and food, and we pay them lip service without hand service, we have done them no good. They didn’t just need our kind words; they needed clothes and food! In other words, we can have all the religion in the world, but if it doesn’t manifest itself in tangible results, it is rotten religion. Jesus made this same point when He spoke of the final judgment to His disciples. It is those who clothed, fed and gave a drink to those in need who had true saving faith (Matt. 25:31-46).