Verse of the Day Devotion: James 4:26
“For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” – James 4:26
There are two basic ways to look at the concept of works as described in the Scriptures. Unfortunately, we see both ideas be walked out today by those in our churches. Many people believe that as long as they do good works, they will be OK when Jesus returns. This was the way the Jewish people saw works. However, this is not totally the truth. Works is essential in our life as a Christian. But not in becoming a Christian.
In ancient Jewish tradition, works was the way Jews believed they were able to please God. We see this in how strictly they followed the law. Micah lays out how this is basically flawed. “With what shall I come to the LORD And bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, With yearling calves? Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, In ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” Micah 6:6-7. This was how the ancient Jews believed they showed their faith to God, by keeping the law. But Micah goes on to state this in not the case. “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8. Following the law was not what pleased God, but it was how we lived our lives
The law was not meant to address our sins, but to show us what our sins are, and ultimately our need for salvation. “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, You shall not covet.” Romans 7:7. This shows that the law / works had nothing to do with us being declared righteous, it is faith. In the Old Testament, we see essentially the same thing. “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.” Habakkuk 2:4. Those who are proud and haughty believe they themselves have addressed their sins, not realizing that it is faith in God that will address them, not anything we do.
So, we see that the law simply shows us our sins but does not address them. It is faith in God and the works He has done. However, our declaration of faith is not enough. We must live out our beliefs as well. James lays this out perfectly. “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, Go in peace, be warmed and be filled, and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” James 2:14-16. He then culminates this thought in the next verse, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” James 2:17
So, faith is proved by our works. A declaration of our faith in Christ without a change in our lives that shows our love for Christ and our fellow man: a life that brings glory to God through our works, shows we do not really have faith at all. It turns out only to be meaningless words. And just as our focus verse says, faith without work is dead, just like the body without the spirit is dead. True faith is giving up our old life with its sinful ways and replacing it with God honoring works that fulfills our calling as servants and children of God. It is only then that the world will see our faith and desire to know more.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.