Religion in Street Clothes
“14 My brothers and sisters, if people say they have faith, but do nothing, their faith is worth nothing. Can faith like that save them? 15 A brother or sister in Christ might need clothes or food. 16 If you say to that person, “God be with you! I hope you stay warm and get plenty to eat,” but you do not give what that person needs, your words are worth nothing. 17 In the same way, faith by itself—that does nothing—is dead.
18 Someone might say, “You have faith, but I have deeds.” Show me your faith without doing anything, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19 You believe there is one God. Good! But the demons believe that, too, and they tremble with fear.
20 You foolish person! Must you be shown that faith that does nothing is worth nothing? 21 Abraham, our ancestor, was made right with God by what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar. 22 So you see that Abraham’s faith and the things he did worked together. His faith was made perfect by what he did. 23 This shows the full meaning of the Scripture that says: “Abraham believed God, and God accepted Abraham’s faith, and that faith made him right with God.”[d] And Abraham was called God’s friend.[e] 24 So you see that people are made right with God by what they do, not by faith only.
25 Another example is Rahab, a prostitute, who was made right with God by something she did. She welcomed the spies into her home and helped them escape by a different road.
26 Just as a person’s body that does not have a spirit is dead, so faith that does nothing is dead!” James 2:14-26 NCV
James is a straight shooting and challenging preacher that doesn’t pull punches. He refuses to let those who read his letter get comfortable and sit on their hands. James brings real life application to the Word of God. Bible Expositor G. Campbell Morgan says that the Book of James is like religion in street clothes. In James 2:14-26, we find a hitting-hard message by the brother of Jesus.
James points out that if we claim to have a faith in God, but have no actions or life transformation that supports our faith, it is not really a faith in God. This is where the rubber meets the road in following Jesus and discipleship. According to James, to say that we have submitted our lives to Christ, and to refuse to be transformed by Him, means that we haven’t really submitted our lives to Christ in the first place.
While it is true that salvation in Christ costs you nothing, James would point out that discipleship costs you everything. While salvation in Christ happens in a moment, James would remind us that discipleship occurs over a lifetime. Salvation is something God does for you. James would remind us that discipleship is something you do with God. At the cross, God gave His all for your salvation. James tells us that our lives are where we give our all to advance His Kingdom.
Following Jesus is not about making a one time confession of faith, but about living our lives submitted to the rule, reign, will, power, and authority of God.
Sadly, there are many times that we preach only a life of decision, but fail to call believers to a life of discipleship. Jesus didn’t go to the cross to make bad people good. He went to the cross to make dead people live. When He comes into our lives and we move from death to life, our actions will reflect that. We are saved by our faith in Christ, but our faith in Christ is revealed in what we do, how we love and follow God, and in how we treat each other. Someone once said, “Salvation comes by faith alone, but a saving faith never comes alone.” I think James would agree. A faith in God that does not lead to works, James would argue, is not a saving faith.
It is sad that there are multitudes of people who profess to be Christians, yet live with a dead faith that does not result in life transformation or life application. They profess with their lips while their lives deny their faith. While James is not saying that Christians are sinless, he does suggest that Christians should sin less. If we profess a genuine faith in Jesus, we must not make sin a habit in our lives. James encourages us not to be consumers of the Word, but co-workers in the Gospel.
Lord Jesus, transform me. Make me new. Make me more like You. Give me boldness in what I say and in how I present You. Empower me to grow in integrity. In Jesus’ name, amen.