We are living in a time when it is very challenging to live a life of faith. This is because churches in our day are full of people who profess Christ but may not truly possess Him. This is the same situation that confronted the Apostle James in the early years of Christianity among the Jewish Christian communities. There were people who claimed to have faith but in reality their faith was an empty profession only. James wrote his letter to address this problem and to show how we can know whether we have this true biblical faith in our lives or not. In fact, he pointed out four things about this living faith in the second chapter of his epistle. First, true faith will always produce good works or actions. “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (Jas 2: 14). When we are right with God, we will show it by our practical works. We will show our love in a practical way especially when we see our fellow brother or sister in need.
James wrote, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (Jas. 2: 15, 16). James also pointed out that this Christian tries to cover up his selfish heart with pious and hypocritical words. We can paraphrase his words like this, “Well, bless your soul, I could empathize with you. How I wish I could help but I’m busy now, please come back another day when I’m not so tied down with my work. I promise to pray that God will provide what you need and you will be alright.” Second, faith, if it exists alone, is a dead faith. Faith plays a vital part in our lives. But if our faith is not accompanied by works, then our faith is nonexistent. James says, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (Jas 2: 17). James also makes the vivid parallel between a dead faith and a corpse. For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (Jas. 2: 26). The third thing about true faith is that it is not found in the realm of knowledge only. True faith is never just an intellectual exercise. Someone says that in Christianity it is not what you know but who you know that counts. We can have a head full of facts about the Bible and Jesus Christ, but we may not know Him personally. “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe--and shudder! “(Jas. 2: 19) There may be a strong rebuke here for the professing Christians because they speak so irreverently about God and have no compunction about it, whereas, the demons at least do acknowledge God and tremble with fear. Lastly, James puts it clearly that true, living faith will always show the fruit of obedience. He gives the examples of Rahab and Abraham. These two showed their faith by their obedience. Jesus spoke to His disciples regarding this issue, “Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you? (Lk 6:46). It is a misnomer for a person to call himself a Christian and yet live a life of habitual disobedience. How about you? Do you have a living faith that is evidenced by your godly behavior? Paul exhorts us to examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith or not (2Cor. 13: 5). May we not be found wanting.
Rev. Mark Tay