James 2:14 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.
One of the key principles of the Protestant Reformation named by Martin Luther some 500 years ago was “sola fide” meaning “faith alone”. In other words, we are claimed as children of God not by our works or deeds, but by faith alone. No one can “earn” their way to God the Father. However, this chapter of James seems to rebut that argument.
I’m not sure James intends here to refute the idea of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, but he is definitely challenging believers to live out their faith via observable actions. In other words, the gift of adoption as child of God comes with responsibility. Christian believers are the primary vehicle by which the good news of Jesus Christ is shared throughout the world, in both words and deeds. When we neglect those in need we fail to live into our identity as followers of Jesus – who cared deeply about the poor and marginalized.
The question I’m wrestling with today is, “How is my Christian faith lived out in observable actions?”
Lord Jesus, give us grace to align our actions with our faith – and forgive us when we fail in the effort. Amen.