Faith without deeds

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?
- James 2:14

James gets intentionally aggressive in today’s passage. His intensity slips through in small phrases: “claims,” “no deeds,” “such faith.” For James, faith without deeds is a fiction. Faith without deeds is no faith at all.

Why would anyone claim to have faith without deeds?

Claiming to have faith can confer upon people tremendous social benefits. Our community is warm and loving. It shouldn’t surprise us when people want to be a part of our community even before they’re willing to place their trust in Christ and obey him with their lives. That’s one of the reasons we go so far out of our way to communicate that we welcome people into our community who don’t yet have faith in Christ. We don’t want them to feel like they have to fake it.

Another reason someone might claim to have faith but not be able to back it up with their lifestyle is that they’re trapped in a pattern of sin that they just can’t seem to escape. Identifying that gap between faith and deeds might be exactly what they need to come to their senses, seek help, and receive freedom from the Lord.

One last reason someone might claim to have faith but not have made much progress in acting on it has to do with the way faith is talked about in Christian communities. Faith is often presented as antithetical to work. “All you have to do is believe,” people are told. So they do. They believe (or try to) and that’s all they do. But belief that never takes root into action will always struggle to survive in the hard, dry soil of our hearts.

Where have you struggled to back up your faith with your deeds? What resistance have you encountered as you’ve tried?

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