James 2:14 – What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?
Faith and Works Defined
Hebrews 11:1 says, Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. I also like to think of faith as trusting that God will keep His promises because He is both able and willing.
It’s one thing to think God is capable of working miracles and being there for us. Believing in the Bible as truth and even seeing God work in other people’s lives can help us believe He’s capable.
However, believing that God is willing to act on our behalf is a little different. It’s easier to have a “God at a distance” faith, where you believe there is a God but that He’s not really involved in our lives. Many people don’t feel worthy of God’s involvement in their life. However, God tells us in His word that He is a personal God and that He wants what’s best for us. Therefore, we should have faith that He will act in our lives, because this is what God promises us.
Works can mean a lot of different things, but it all boils down to obedience to God. Whatever He asks us to do, we do it, whether it’s serving, mentoring, teaching, helping, or doing something that seems crazy.
Works can be commands we see in the Bible and also things God tells us specifically. Don’t get the wrong message, though. Doing works is not the way to heaven. It is a byproduct of our faith. We do works because we know God loves us, not because we’re trying to earn it.
Referring to faith without deeds, James 2:14 uses the phrase “such faith.” “Such faith” seems to imply that there are different kinds of faith. Therefore, if you have the right kind of faith, works will naturally follow.
Faith without deeds, as the Bible mentions, is what we might call weak or incomplete faith. This type of faith makes us too fearful to step out of our comfort zone.
The unknown is scary especially if you feel alone or think the people you’re with aren’t trustworthy. Weak faith means we don’t fully believe God is who He says He is with all the promises He’s given us, which then means we won’t trust Him fully with every part of our lives. We’ll worry about the future and things out of our control. We’ll worry about things in our control that we should let God handle because we don’t have faith that He truly can handle it… way better than we can.
Weak faith is stagnant, and it lacks life. If we’re not growing in our faith by reading the word and spending time with God, if we’re not moving forward by stepping out of our comfort zones and serving others, then we’re falling backwards.
It would be like practicing an instrument or training for a sport. As long as we’re practicing, we’re getting better. Once we stop, though, over time we begin to get rusty, lose our muscle tone, or forget our skill. Sure we could still manage, but we wouldn’t be on top of our game. We’d be declining. That’s how faith is.
Obviously, people with weak or incomplete faith aren’t likely to do good works. So what kind of faith do we need? We need true or complete faith. True faith moves us to action.
True faith gives us confidence to step out of our comfort zone and do the crazy things God has called us to do. True faith takes away our worry about what will happen and allows us to focus on the task. True faith means we know God is in control and not us. We can foul up. God cannot. So if we’re living in God’s will and doing the works He’s called us to do, then we can have faith He’ll help us succeed.
Just like a child who does daredevil jumps into her daddy’s arms because she has complete trust in him, we need to have complete trust and faith in our God to take the leaps He’s called us to take.
If we’re walking with Him, God will always call us to do things that will require us to lean on Him. Things we can’t do on our own. He gets the glory that way, we’re saved from becoming prideful, and we grow in our faith in Him, which we’ll need for future struggles.
Our Works Show Our Faith
Aside from being able to carry out God’s big plan for us, true faith and the subsequent works point nonbelievers to Christ. James 2:18 says, “But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.
People can’t see faith. We can tell others we have faith in God, but how will they know for sure that we do, or what that really means? We show people our faith by our works, as the verse suggests.
When we love people and serve them and step out and do things we wouldn’t be able to do without God, people can see our faith.
When they ask us, “How come you’re so happy and friendly all the time?” we can say, “Because I have faith that I am a new creation, loved by God and called to love others.”
When they ask us, “How are you dealing with this so well?” we can say, “Because I have faith that God is with me and will get me through it.”
When they ask us, “Why did you do something so crazy and risky?” we can say, “Because I have faith that God called me to do this and that He never asks us to do something without giving us the tools and help we’ll need to do it.”
Works may not save us, but they are definitely a byproduct of the kind of true faith God wants us to have.