Devotional Series: James: More Grace
James 2:14-17 | What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Mind the gap!
God does not change like shifting shadows. There is a reliability and a consistency and a unity about everything he says and does. But the life of a double- minded Christian is very different. It is full of gaps and inconsistencies.
We may listen to God’s word but never put it into practice. We may consider ourselves religious, but our lives may tell a different story. Jesus our Lord gives grace and mercy to the poor, but we may fail to do the same.
James’ readers are failing in exactly these ways and James wants them to see the danger they are in. Gaps matter, and in today’s verses James shines his spotlight on yet another one.
- What important question does James raise (v. 14)?
The gap James highlights here is between what we say and what we do. Is it possible to claim to believe in Jesus but not be saved? Is there such a thing as fake or counterfeit ‘faith’ which will turn out to be useless?
- Where is the gap in the story that James uses to illustrate his answer (vv. 15–16)?
James still seems to be thinking about how his readers treat poor Christians in their fellowship. He imagines a very shocking incident to demonstrate his point.
He paints a picture of a Christian brother or sister who is destitute. They have no clothes and nothing to eat. It is no good wishing this poor believer warmth and food if you give them neither. Such good wishes are hollow and fake. If you really wished your brother or sister well, you wouldn’t leave them cold and hungry.
The way you tell that such good wishes are genuine is that they turn into action. The evidence that you mean what you say is that you actually do it. Words don’t fill hungry stomachs; you need to give your brother or sister practical help, otherwise your claim to care is useless.
Claims to have faith are just as useless if there is no evidence in your actions that you believe what you say. James says such ‘faith’ is dead (v. 17). In other words, James’ answer to the question he raised in verse 14 is ‘no’.
Claims to believe in the Lord Jesus that don’t lead to obedient action are fake claims. They will do us no good at all. Such ‘faith’ will not save us.
Ask God to help you see where there are similar gaps in your Christian life and ask for his forgiveness and power to change.