James 2:14 “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can [n]that faith save him?” A question I hope to encourage you all with today is where are your works?
One of the great beauties of our Christian faith is how much it’s about what good we can do for others. It’s when we all do good for each other, we can all enjoy good things in life. What’s striking about what James said in verse 14, is that he even ties works to saving faith. We can have life through our faith in Christ, but without works, according to James in verse 17, it’s dead. The Thayer’s Greek Lexicon goes into specific detail about what works means here. We’ll get into that later
But we see a strong importance placed in acting on our faith. Let’s dig a little deeper into the context of James 2:14.
James 2:14 Context
Prior to verse 14, James talks about judgment being merciless to the one who has shown no mercy. Judgment being mentioned in the verse prior to verse 14, which mentioned faith that saves, is something I strongly encourage you to ponder with understanding what verse 14 is saying. But let’s look at the meaning of the word mercy in the Greek.
The Greek Word for mercy is eleos. It means “of uncertain affinity; compassion (human or divine, especially active)”. Those who show no compassion towards others, judgment will show no compassion towards them. You might be thinking when you read that, what kind of compassion? The verse after James 2:14 gives us a clue.
James 2:15-17 states, “15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, [o]be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is [p]dead, being by itself.”
How many of us if one of our Christian brothers or sisters were hungry and without much clothing would we help give them what they need? Or would we just tell them be warmed and filled while quietly thinking, “you got yourself into this, so I pray you find a way to deal with this on your own.” Giving help to our fellow Christian brothers or sisters we see need is what works is being understood as here. James 2:17 seems to make our service to our brothers and sisters in need bigger than just something we’re instructed to do. It’s tied to our faith having any life at all, and thus having any salvation for us at all.
Works of the Law don’t save
You might be thinking, wait a second, I thought we weren’t saved by works? That’s right. We’re not saved by works of the law, which were specific instructions the Jews had to uphold. Apostle Paul is careful to specify that whenever he mentions what kind of works do not justify a person. Romans 3:28 states, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.”
But works mentioned here is talking about acts of service to our fellow Christian brothers and sisters in need. If you look at Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, it does put it’s meaning of this word “works” for this verse in a distinctive category of acts. And it reflects many other writings in scripture that encourage us in that direction. The collection gifts that are collected in 1 Corinthians 16:1 were given to the poor. That’s according to Greek meaning of the word used for collection. In Acts 2, one of the first things converted Christians did was gather their possessions together, sell them, and sharing everything together with whatever need anyone had.
This is a serious question you have to consider. If we see so much talk of faith being dead, faith that saves, judgment showing no mercy tied with works in this passage, what does that mean? What I hope I’m getting you to see is that God’s desire of us to act out our compassion to one another in our faith is more than just an instruction. It’s critical to our salvation in the end.
How amazing is it that God made giving food, giving clothes, and giving whatever our hands can extend to our Christian family in need, all a part of being alive and saved in faith? That’s as beautiful as any nature scenery you could ever see.
Peace to you all in Christ.