In chapter 2, we are talking about the importance of putting our faith into action. I like James. He's not one to beat around the bush. I guess when you're the brother of Jesus you can do things like being direct. James lays it out in this chapter that faith is more than belief. We can't just say we believe in Christ, we have to back those words up.
In v. 19, he says,
You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.
It's almost like he has a snarky tone to his words like he's saying, "well, congratulations, you're no better than everyone else." The phrase "for you believe that there is one God" is referring to the Jewish and now Christian understanding of monotheism. This is a core foundation of who God is. The Jews recited this in their Shema prayer,
"Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One."
Christians today say it in the Nicene Creed,
"We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible."
What James is saying here is that it's good to understand who God is, but that's not enough. Satan ad the demons know who God is but that doesn't change who they are. We must be willing to change our actions, change our lives because of who God is. We must allow our faith to transform us and transform what we do.
That is why James says in v. 14,
"What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?"
We must live our lives through our actions according to the faith that we have. We must show based on how we live what we believe in our hearts. Then he gives a wonderful tangible example. I personally love tangible examples. I'm the type of person that wants to know why something matters to me or how I can apply it. James doesn't leave us wondering these questions.
"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?"
Now, if someone is lacking food and clothing, and we greet them, then wish them a good day, and tell them to stay warm, which is applying that it's cool out, how are they suppose to do that if they don't have warm clothing? It's like being in a boat and driving past a person in the water who is struggling to stay afloat. You pass them, greet them and say to them, stay safe, then leave them in the water. You were the way they could have stayed safe. But instead, you have just left them out in the water when they were struggling.
James uses this example of a person needing food and clothing for a reason. Moses wrote into the law, in Deuteronomy 15:7-8,
"But if there are any poor Israelites in your towns when you arrive in the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tightfisted toward them. Instead, be generous and lend them whatever they need."
The Jewish people were supposed to take care of each other.
We are Christians today are suppose to do the same. James is telling us in this chapter that we are supposed to treat every person equally, no matter who they are, no matter what they look like, no matter where they are from, no matter how much money they have. Each person we meet, we are supposed to see as equals in our community and love them as God would love them. If there is something we can do to help them then we are called to help them.
God reaches out to us, therefore we are called to put actions behind our faith and reach out as well.
Putting our faith in actions isn't an easy thing. It's one thing to say we believe in Christ, and we love others as Christ loves, but it's an entirely different thing to act those words out. This is what James 2 is all about. James is pushing us to go deeper with standing behind the words that we have faith.
Read James 2:1-13.
- Focusing on 2-3, how have you seen Christians act like this?
- Have you ever done this without realizing it?
- How can we help equalize the poor and the rich within the body of Shalimar UMC?
- Reread 12-13. How have you shown mercy to someone this past week?
- How could we be more merciful in our lives to others?
Read James 2:14-26.
- Based on 14-15, what does faith in action mean to you?
- When was the last time you saw someone in the church or outside it in need, and stop to help? Do you even notice those in need?
- Reflect on 21-24. Also see Genesis 22:1-19, 15:6. How did Abraham prove that he had more than faith in God? What can we take away from Abraham's actions?
- Reflect on 25-26. Also see Joshua 2. How did Joshua and Rahab prove their faith in God with their actions? What can we learn from both of them?
- How can you this week be sure that your faith is not dead?