“14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. 20 Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren? 21 Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. 23 Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.” NRSV
I love the Letter of James. He is so practical, a bit pithy at times, and a real straight shooter about all things faith. After the holidays I do plan to do a sermon series on James.
Here, we are reminded that faith without works is dead. It is another way of looking at what I (not so skillfully) was getting at on Sunday. Faith in God is the vertical beam of the cross. It anchors everything. The Pharisees had great faith. What they did not have was works. Works, the manifestation of love of neighbor, is represented by the horizontal beam of the cross. Without both beams there is no cross. Faith without works is, according to James, dead.
Love God, love neighbor. Faith and works. These are faith formulas that even someone as dense as me can understand. I am grateful God made it so simple, but I’m guessing the old “the dog ate Bible” excuse is no longer valid for not doing the work God requires.
Be a blessing to someone today!