Fake News: Faith Without Works will Save3
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 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. (James 2:14-17)
We live in the age of fake news. It seems everywhere you look, there is a shocking headline from someone’s Facebook post that makes you wonder about its reliability. The problem with fake news is that it is, by definition, lies. And lies hurt. Some lies are small in their degree, but some have a massive effect.
In this section, James is dealing with what seems like the fake news in his day. And that fake news was that a person can just say “I have faith” and expect that proclamation will save him. The problem with this fake news is that it will lead people who believe it to be destroyed by God for all eternity in hell. James says a faith that has no works is dead. Do you know what the Greek word for dead is? Dead. There is no mystery here. If anyone claims to believe in God but their lives show no proof of such, we can conclude that whatever faith they have, it is not the living faith that will see men and women enter Glory.
Consider the illustration James uses. If you tell a hungry brother “go in peace” and do nothing for his estate, it has absolutely no benefit for him. He is still hungry. You have said “go in peace,” but he is still stuck in hunger. Your words have not given his stomach any peace, no matter how sincere you were when you said them. It is the same with faith. We can shout from the rooftops that we have faith; we can go around telling people that we have faith, but all those words mean nothing if our lives are not in step with that faith. In the same way you cannot feed a man with mere words, so also faith without works cannot save.
Let's be honest for a moment here. If you live a life full of sin from Monday to Saturday and expect your proclamations of faith on Sunday to have any value, you are decieved. If you live a life of immorality, greed, self-promotion and injustice and expect that saying "only God can judge me" will somehow make you safe, you are terribly decieved. If you think praying for your food and being a fan of a "Man of God" is enough to save you, you are deceived. True faith, rather, produces a completely changed life.
James is not saying this to destroy anyone. James is a pastor, and his pastoral heart wants his hearers to shy away from lies and embrace the only truth that saves. And that truth is, you must not be satisfied with a “faith” that has produced no change in your life. You must know that coming to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins will lead to a changed life. One that hates sin, loves God, loves the believers, repents frequently, and holds fast to the teachings of the apostles (see 1 John for a detailed run down of these). If your life does not reflect this, speak to someone today. Do not allow the folly of self-deception and misplaced pride to cloud your judgement; go to Jesus Christ in prayer and ask him to cleanse you of your sins and give you a new heart.
And for those who know they are believers; it is wise to take this as an encouragement to keep doing those works that are meet for repentance. Be encouraged, dear beloved of God, to continue fighting sin. Be encouraged to continue looking out for others. As we see the Day of the Lord draw near (Heb 10:25), let us not grow weary of doing the good we know we ought to. Let us do it more and more. Let us love more fiercely than ever before; let us be more steadfast than we were yesterday. May God bless you as you pursue to walk in line with your living faith.