What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14-17)
My faith shows in the things I do. So does yours!
This doesn’t mean that I have a works mentality. I don’t believe my works will get me to heaven. Like Paul, I believe my faith will get me to heaven. (Romans 3:21-31)
I perform works as the result of my faith. I love Jesus! And I try to make that visible every day. You can boil my whole theology down to one concept: servant leadership. I try to live the lifestyle of Jesus.
We don’t have to resolve the works/faith “issue.” When we live the lifestyle of Jesus, there is no issue. That’s what you see in James. He said, “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18)
Some people say that James and Paul were having a disagreement, but they weren’t. They were talking about two different things. When Paul said that you aren’t saved by works, he meant that works alone will not get you into heaven. Paul said, “Look, you’re not going to be able to just do good things and then expect to get to heaven. You need to give up your soul.” And in my belief, that’s true. Paul and James agreed on this.
But while Paul was talking about giving up your soul and becoming a believer, James was talking to the believers, the ones that had already given up their souls to God. When James said, “I will show you my faith by my works,” he was talking about the lifestyle that he was living because he was a believer.
What lifestyle was that? Just as Paul said, once you confess that Jesus died for your sins, you are saved. But then what? Do you say, “Oh, I can just sit around now. I’m saved. I can do whatever I want. Since my salvation is all about grace, I can go ahead and live my life just the way I like.”
Paul and James and all the other disciples had one word for that: No! And the proof is in the lives they lived as disciples of Jesus. They lived lives of sacrifice, and they were persecuted for it. They were definitely not persecuted because they did whatever they felt like doing! They gave their lives to Jesus. They lived the lifestyle of Jesus. They showed us the life of a believer. Believers lead by serving.
That’s what got the disciples in trouble. That’s what got them imprisoned and killed. They shook people up! They were in Greece and Rome — pagan capitals! They walked into the temples of a ton of different gods. They walked into places where people were having orgies. They walked into these places and said, “No! No! This is not the lifestyle you are supposed to be living! This isn’t what you were made for! It’s unfulfilling. Let us help you. Let us show you how to be fulfilled.”
The disciples showed us how to live. They challenged the worldview of their time. They invited people to a new worldview, lit up by Jesus and the salvation He brings. That was their lifestyle.
That’s what James is saying. You show me a believer that has a lifestyle of Jesus. That’s Christianity. But you show me a lifestyle that is without works, a lifestyle where you don’t do anything? You sit around? You accept Christ and then you just sit there and you don’t go out and live for Jesus? That’s not Christianity. You say you have faith, but who can see it?
We’re called to so much more. And when you show people your faith by serving them, it will change you. More on this next time. See you Thursday.