Today: [James 2:] Faith Without Works: In this chapter, we find a broad spectrum statement regarding faith’s corresponding action that is one of the most disputed concepts in the Bible. The subject of faith and works in this chapter is one reason the book of James is questioned by many as belonging in the canon of scripture in the first place.
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[Jas 2:1-26 KJV] 1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, [the Lord] of glory, with respect of persons. 2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; 3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: 4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? 5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? 6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? 7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? 8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. 10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one [point], he is guilty of all. 11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. 14 What [doth it] profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be [ye] warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what [doth it] profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. 25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent [them] out another way? 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
In v. 1-3 of our chapter, the writer warns against preferential treatment shown to wealthy members of the congregation. This is an unfortunate reality in Christian culture that has gone unchecked since the ink was still wet on the New Testament letters.
Many would trumpet this passage in the interests of social justice, and it does rightly apply and to other areas as well. Since the advent of video and picture taking the platform ministries of our churches have been purged of all but the most attractive men and women in our midst. The same is true of society in general. Studies conducted on this issue conclude that those with less than perfectly good looks are veritably unelectable. The study went on to assert that even towering historical leaders such as Abraham Lincoln could never get elected today solely because he was not a handsome man. We expect this from the world, but the church is no different. We know of several talented and anointed ministers who were removed from platform ministry and flatly told they didn’t fit the image and body type of the message the church wanted to project to the public. These things ought not to be, but sadly there is no motivation for the church to do things any differently.
The writer laments this problem of preference and asks the question does not God love the poor who are rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom. You will note that God loves the poor and loving poverty are two different things. 2 Cor. 8:9 states unequivocally that Jesus became poor not as our example but our substitute. God places no premium upon human suffering including poverty. What is to be our attitude toward the needy (v. 6)? We are to fulfill the royal law (v. 8) and love those less fortunate and give them a reason to bless our name because we choose in substantive ways to be a part of their solution in life and not part of their problem.
Verse 9 belabors the point beyond polite reference flatly stating that preferential treatment of one person over the other is commission of sin. The writer then makes plain in v. 10 that offending in one minor point of the law means that a person is guilty of breaking the law in its entirety. In Christian culture, there are many spoken and unspoken laws – things required of believers on the condition that they be approved as followers of Christ. Examples of this would be tithing for instance. Tithing is a covenantal privilege but to teach it as a law incumbent upon the believer under threat of judgment is to bring the believer under the full weight of transgressing the whole of the law and thus being entirely robbed of God’s blessing.
Other unwritten laws in Christian cultural expectation would include dress, body mass index, how much make-up is appropriate, whether or not a lady should wear a skirt instead of slacks, or lately whether or not it is hypocritical to wear a suit to church instead of appearing in tails out uber casual wear. All of these things if we place them as expectations upon others in our midst according to v. 11 cause us to be branded as transgressors. If we are transgressors of the law in one minor point we are guilty of all, so my caution to you is proceed very carefully in adopting these popular stylized Jewish conventions and traditions or to judge others for not calling God “Yahweh” or Jesus “Yeshua” for to do so as an alleged requirement of spirituality is nothing more than iniquity and injustice in the eyes of God, who according to v. 13 will judge such things without mercy.
Why would God ever decline to show mercy? When we refuse to show mercy. In this context, the comment is made if you claim to have faith, but it isn’t evidenced in your works or the outworking of how you regard and treat others then your faith is void. Many people earnestly believe they are the heart and soul of the expressed mercy of God, but they have many people in their lives that are not the recipients of God’s mercy through that same individual. How do we apply these truths? In v. 15 if we know someone to be in need, we are to feed them, clothe them, meet their necessary need. This should be done personally if at all possible and institutionally if need be.
We are not to say (v. 16) peace be with you be warmed and filled and give nothing of ourselves. This issue of caring for the poor is a consistent and unbroken theme throughout the scriptures, but many times the church does little more than giving the indigent a bag of dented canned food with no label, a night in a seedy hotel and enough gas to get out of town. Make no mistake the preponderance of care for the poor as advocated in the scripture was mandated to be done personally. If your church does or does not engage in these activities, you are still required to do so. The church as an institution cannot obey this mandate for you – there should be impoverished families who lay their head down at night thankful that you are in the world because you have made a difference in their lives. If that is not true (v. 18) the writer dismisses your faith as dead faith because there is no love whereby your faith might be activated.
We are to bear in mind that faith is not defined alone by doctrines that we believe or even what you believe concerning Jesus. The demons believe. Remember that Abraham believed God and that belief was expressed in the fact that he offered up Isaac upon the altar. What are you offering up in life that is indexed to the character of your faith in Christ? A few dented cans of vegetables? Abraham believed God, followed through with corresponding actions based on his belief and it was accounted to him for righteousness. We read this statement and nod in agreement, but for the Jew who was taught all his life that only in keeping the law could one be righteous, this was revelation knowledge.
The writer goes on to mention Rahab, the harlot who hid the spies sent from Joshua and displayed a red cord out of her window. If she had believed that Joshua was a man of God but hadn’t displayed the red cord, then she would have perished with the rest of Jericho. Her corresponding action in connection with her faith caused her to be the only person with her family that was spared when thousands around her perished. Even so, will we be saved. We can look around us and see societal change taking place that could result in disruption of things we all take for granted. How do we get ready? Do we stockpile food and weapons? Do we verse ourselves in the conspiracy theories that abound in the body of Christ about the Illuminati, or the Skull and Bones Society? What about the lizard reptilian CIA agents in black Suburbans that have put up listening posts in your neighborhood? What about the Muslim plant the enemy wants to put in the White House? Shouldn’t we prepare? These are all real-world examples that Kitty and I have encountered repeatedly among God’s people. How do we get ready for the techno-political apocalypse that is coming? The writer of James declares it is by living NOW on this side of things a life of faith made evident by the love we show to others in substantive ways by which they bless God for our generosity.
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