A dead faith.
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? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (Jas 2:15-17)
To answer the question that James put forth in verse 14, he postulates this hypothetical situation.
Let’s not argue whether ‘naked’ means ‘nude’ or ‘just not enough’, the situation that James is painting is of a brother or sister who has a need, not a want!
Then this wonderful brother with faith, seeing the need, is naturally concerned with the plight of the needy brother. He says “I hope that you get things worked out, I hope that you are warmed and filled.” Did you catch it? The emphasis? ‘says’, not “does.”
While talk, as in counseling and encouragement can help, in this case, talk is cheap. Well wishes do not help! Does such speech clothe the brother? Does it feed the sister? The answer is an obvious “NO!” Confident that his readers will understand his point, he concludes “so also…” (in the same way) a faith that exists by itself, separate from works, is dead.
Think about that. What is a dead faith? One that doesn’t act? In James’ words, “one that does not have works.” Worse, it is one that cannot save!
I am always amazed at the way the Bible ties things together. James has just talked about love which he ties to the treatment of widows, orphans, and the poor brother. And now he talks about the faith of an individual in showing that love. It has to act. Then he goes on to talk about needs.
Notice that James did not say if you see a brother or sister who can’t pay their cable bill, their leased car payment, doesn’t have a new iPhone or PlayStation. No, he talks about food and clothing. Paul said in I Tim 6:8 “And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. Jesus mentioned Food and Clothing in Matthew 6:25-34.
It is a world of difference between providing needs and wants. I would say that needs are an obligation of the Christian whereas wants are in the category of grace. If you can, and if you want to, you may provide the wants of another Christian or someone else for that matter. But if you can and if you see the need, you are obligated to provide the needs. (Perhaps you don’t by yourself but you still take care of it)
If you do that, you show faith. And your faith lives:
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? (1Jn 3:17)
As I discussed in our last post, so many think that not earning your salvation is the same thing as not needing to do anything once you have it. Oh, they may not ‘say’ that but their actions betray it. They are very different concepts. God choose to offer his grace, we obey the Gospel and now we are obligated to live a certain way. Even so, he gives more grace (later on in James) to the humble.
What conclusions do you draw from this so far? Can faith that saves exist apart from works? Do you have works that show your faith. If you are still not convinced, James will continue to talk about this….
Posted on December 14, 2011, in Christianity, Faith, James and tagged brother in need, christianity, commentary on James, dead faith, faith, faith without works, talk is cheap. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.