Scripture: James 2:1-26
Observation: James begins by warning us not to favor some people over others – as followers of Jesus, we are called to love and serve everyone, not just a select few. He continues on to argue that true faith must be accompanied by good works. Unless we demonstrate our faith through our actions, we cannot truly claim to be right with God.
Application: On Christmas Day 1998, all of my eight-year-old dreams came true – I received my very first American Girl doll, and it was EVERYTHING. I was obsessed with the American Girl Doll series, reading every book, buying every trading card, paging through every magazine, and scheming of ways to convince my family to go on vacation to Chicago where they opened the first American Girls Doll store.
While the rest of my friends loved Josephina, the trendy, new American Girl who had her ears pierced (coolest thing ever, of course), I had a particular affinity for Samantha, the aspiring prim and proper girl from 1904. She ate petit fours, wore fancy stockings, and spent afternoons with her grandmother, constantly attempting to finish sewing “Actions speak louder than words” on her embroidery sample. That adage always stuck with me.
Actions speak louder than words. And, when it comes to faith, what we do is more important than simply what we say. We can say we believe. We can say we trust God. We can say we hope in Christ Jesus, our Savior. But, are our lives a true reflection of our words?
“What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith, but don’t show it by your actions?” (verse 14)
Actions speak louder than words. When someone looks at our lives, do they see empty declarations or passionate demonstrations?
“So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” (verse 17)
Faith without works is dead. Now, let’s not get it twisted – we aren’t saved because we’re good. We’re saved because God is so good, inviting us into a relationship with him through a grace we don’t deserve. A few books earlier in the New Testament, the apostle Paul reminds us how salvation flows from grace:
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
We’re saved by grace, not by works. We’re saved because of how good God is, not because of how good we are. We don’t get good to get God; we get God to get good.
James goes on to argue that our belief alone doesn’t sustain our faith, for even the demons believe there is one God. Our belief in the one true God, the creator and author of salvation, and in his son Christ Jesus who died for our sins on the cross, saves us. And we live out our belief when we model our lives after Jesus, giving generously, loving lavishly, and serving selflessly.
Grace is the foundation of our salvation, and good works are the demonstration of our faith.
So, how are you living out your faith? Are you loving, compassionate, and kind towards others? Do your words tear others down or build them up? Are you quick to forgive and slow to anger? Have you humbled yourself to serve those around you? Are you becoming more and more like Jesus everyday in the thoughts you have, the words you speak, and the actions you perform?
Once we have put our faith in the saving power of Jesus Christ, we live out that faith by submitting ourselves more fully to him. When we look like Jesus, our faith comes alive.
Prayer: God, first, thank you for your saving grace and power. I pray you can help me constantly submit myself, my heart, and my desires to you so I can live out my faith through everything I do. Mold me into your image. Amen.
- What do you believe James means when he says it’s a sin to favor one person over another? Is it possible to show equal favor to others? How?
- What does it mean to you to “live out your faith”?
- How are you actively living out your faith through kind words?
- Think about Abraham and his story. How did his faith and good works work together? Why do you believe he was called a “friend of God”?