Taking A Look At Faith
James 2: 15 – 18, 20 – 24 Amplified Bible
This portion of scripture is challenging to me. Primarily because of how ‘faith’ has been taught. Your experience and may be different from mine. You may already have a clear understanding of this topic. If that is the case, I pray you will be patient with me as I explore ‘faith’ as discussed in this particular passage.
15 If a brother or sister is poorly clad and lacks food for each day,
16 And one of you says to him, Good-bye! Keep [yourself] warm and well fed, without giving him the necessities for the body, what good does that do?
James is addressing the church. So he isn’t speaking of seeing strangers in distress. He is talking to believers, church folks who may encounter a person who is like them. This example isn’t about some con artist at the gas station asking for spare change. James is speaking of a spiritual brother or sister who has a legitimate need of daily necessities. In his illustration, James is speaking of a person that a disciple would want to help and be happy about doing so.
Clothing and food are basic necessities. These are things that are needed every day. No follower of Jesus should be satisfied in seeing a person existing without these essentials. So it seems ridiculous, insulting and totally unaware to leave people in want and in need when we have the means to help provide what they lack.
17 So also faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative, dead).
This is the part I find challenging, verse 17. Possibly because ‘faith’ (for most of my church life) has been taught as a passive kind of ‘hope’ where we just endure the situation as best we can and wait for God to come along, wave His magic wand and make everything better.
Faith is good and great and without it we cannot please the Father. (Hebrews 11: 2-3, 6). Faith is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Faith is one of the “Big 3” according to I Corinthians 13:13…Faith, Hope and Love. With faith having such an important role in the life of Jesus followers how can James say that ‘faith’ alone is as ineffective as telling the person in need to be warm and full without seeing to it that they have clothing and food? What about the message of the song, “Faith, faith, faith…just a little more faith…you don’t need a whole lot, just use what you’ve got…faith, faith faith…just a little more faith”?
18 But someone will say [to you then], You [say you] have faith, and I have [good] works. Now you show me your [alleged] faith apart from any [good] works [if you can], and I by [good] works [of obedience] will show you my faith.
James is detailing the true nature and proof of ‘faith’. It is not passive waiting-on-God as has been often taught.
20 Are you willing to be shown [proof], you foolish (unproductive, spiritually deficient) fellow, that faith apart from [good] works is inactive and ineffective and worthless?
Here James asks the listeners/readers if they are willing to have their theology, their belief system challenged and changed. He describes one who isn’t willing to convert, based on the facts he is about to share, as unfruitful and spiritually lacking. He even characterizes this naked faith as powerless and of no value. That is a hard pill to swallow.
21 Was not our forefather Abraham [shown to be] justified (made acceptable to God) by [his] works when he brought to the altar as an offering his [own] son Isaac?
To make his point, James uses a person with whom all of Israel can identify: Abraham. He speaks of a situation that is dear to their hearts and their history (Genesis 22: 1 – 14). He knows how revered Abraham is to them and that his faith in God was exemplary, commendable and to be imitated.
22 You see that [his] faith was cooperating with his works, and [his] faith was completed and reached its supreme expression [when he implemented it] by [good] works.
In his explanation, James shows that the lesser (faith) cooperates with the greater (works). And ‘faith’ was made whole by ‘works’. Without corresponding action, faith has no ability. Supporting deeds (or works) are the ‘proof’ or ‘evidence’ of the presence of ‘working faith’.
More to come on the subject of FAITH! Thanks for visiting...