(Click here for a video of John reading this Catch.)
According to James, your faith in Christ has to be evidenced in your attitudes, your treatment of others, and your overall actions or else you are fooling yourself with your faith. No wonder some of the early fathers of the church didn’t want the Book of James to be in the Bible. Read one way, it can read as a book of works. What it is, in fact, is a book that insists that your faith has to reflect itself in your life in some way. You can’t say you have faith in Christ without your faith showing up in your life in some form.
Here are just a few of the things James says should be in our lives if our faith is real.
If your faith is real …
you will endure hardship with joy;
you will not be blown around by every wind of doctrine;
you will boast in your poverty;
you will not give in to temptation;
you will know you are loved by God;
you will be quick to listen, slow to speak;
you will be slow to anger;
you will be free of filth and evil in your lives;
you will accept the word of God;
you will control your tongue;
you will care for orphans and widows in distress;
you will keep yourselves from being corrupted by the world;
you will not show favoritism to anyone;
you will not discriminate between people or people groups;
you will not dishonor the poor;
you will love your neighbor as yourself;
you will keep the law of God;
you will show mercy to all;
you will do good to others.
That’s just a quick list from the first two chapters of James. Spend more time on it and I bet you can find more.
Now you could approach all these things as a check list of what we must do to be good Christians. Or you could look at this list as a way to please God. Or you could look at it as a way to measure yourself in comparison to other Christians. Or you could use it as a stairway to heaven. But none of these things would be what James is talking about.
What James is saying is that if your faith is real you should see at least some of these things in your life as proof that the Holy Spirit is in you, and that God is making changes in your behavior and your attitudes. It’s a little like what Peter says in 2 Peter 1:8, after listing a number of qualities of faith that God is working into our lives, “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Good deeds are not a means to faith; they are an evidence of faith. But they are nonetheless important, because if you have none of these things in your life, your faith is worthless. So basically these things are like a test of your faith.
So, how are you doing?
Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds. James 2:18