SCRIPTURE: James 2:14-26
14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?
17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
18 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.”
19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God.[f] Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?
21 Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. 24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.
25 Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. 26 Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.
The key to the passage is verse 14, Can that kind of faith save anyone? James is not talking about FAITH verses WORKS. He is talking about two kinds of faith. Technically there are only two kinds:
- The right kind and the wrong kind.
- A faith that works and one that does not work.
- A faith never moved to act and a faith that moves us to act.
- A faith that is dead and lifeless and a faith that is alive.
- A faith that is passive and a faith that is active.
- A faith that pities and a faith that helps.
- A faith that is intellectual and a faith that is life changing.
- A faith that manifest itself in words and a faith that shows itself in deeds.
Once you see that he is discussing two kinds of faith, everything becomes crystal clear. Either you have the right kind of faith, a faith that works or you have the wrong kind, one that does not work. What James hates is profession of faith without evidence of faith.
The question presented tonight is–How do you show, demonstrate true faith? You do it in actions [Verse 18]
- You help the brother or sister who has no clothes or food. Speaking a blessing over is not an appropriate action. You go home or to the store and get food and clothes and take it to them. True Christian ministry is always expensive. If you are cheap, you are not a minister. Advice is cheap, words are cheap but food and clothes cost money.
- Abraham believed God. He had so much faith that he believed that God would resurrect Isaac. God would have had Isaac been the Messiah. But God is not into human sacrifice other than the one exception. Yet Abraham demonstrated tremendous faith by being willing to give up his son. He literally gave the one thing he loved most to God. What a sacrifice. He did not have to slay his son to present the sacrifice, he had to be willing. Figuratively, Isaac was resurrected because Abraham got him back. When you think of Abraham, what word pops into your mind? It is not works. The word that pops into your mind is FAITH because Abraham was saved by faith, real faith, the right kind of faith. [James does not hate FAITH; he hates profession without real faith. He hates the wrong kind of faith.]
- When you think of Rahab, do you think works? Not unless you are Church of Christ. Rahab is the poster girl for GRACE just as Abraham is the father of FAITH. I am not going to tell you what Rahab means in Hebrew: look it up on Blue Letter Bible. She was a prostitute but she believed in Yahweh and she let it be known to the spies. She believed that every knee would bow and every tongue confess and she wanted to be identified as a believer. She demonstrated her faith by putting her life on the line. Had the king of Jericho found out what Rahab was doing: she would have been executed. It took great faith for her to hide the spies. What kind of faith did she have? The right kind! The wrong kind of faith is useless. By the way, Rahab became a proselyte Israelite, she converted to the faith and married an Israelite man. Rahab gave birth to a man named Boaz who eventually married Ruth a Moabite. Ruth and Boaz had a son name Obed. Obed had a son named Jesse and Jesse was the father of David. This makes Ruth [Gentile] David great grand mother and Rahab is his great-great. Boaz was half Israelite and half Canaanite. Obed was only one quarter Israelite. His mother was a Moabite and his daddy was only half Israelite. What does this mean? David, who the Jews came to worship was not a full blooded Jew. A lot of people believe that Matthew put Ruth and Rahab in the geneology to humble the Jews. Rahab spells GRACE. You know the Jews did not want her name mentioned. They of course denied the deity of Christ and that He was the Messiah but they could not deny that she was David’s great-great.
So we see as an example how Abraham and Rahab expressed their faith: they did it by doing acts of faith. It both cases it took faith to act and they acted in faith. Neither had a dead, lifeless, passive faith.
Jesus In The Sermon On The Mount
“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
Who do we obey, Jesus or James? Actually, there is no real conflict. Jesus is dealing with motive. In Matthew 6 Jesus is referring to Pharisees and Scribes in chapter 5 He is talking to His disciples when He says…
“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
So really James is in sink with Jesus, we are not to cover our faith. We are not to keep it secret. The sin is to have a corrupt motive and do it for our glory rather than the glory of Christ.
My first Church was actually an interim job during my last two years of college. It was a very good church. They had an old fashioned general assembly before Sunday School and the Sunday School Directory had the floor. He was an old man who loved to hear himself talk and he only attended on Sunday mornings. I was green as grass and didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing but I grew up in a much larger church that used the SS envelope system with the 8 point grading system and a place for your offering, and a place on the outside of the envelope where you wrote down the amount. The SS Directory had a fit and his biblical excuse was Matthew 6:3, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. I think in this case, the left hand was ashamed of what it was doing which was robbing God. I was young and thought all church leaders tithed, especially a man who stood before others and tried to teach them right and wrong. Sure enough, the old bird didn’t give a dime. He was using Jesus teaching to excuse himself from giving.
We are not to give ostentatiously; we are not to give begrudgingly–Jesus made it clear that there is no reward for the wrong kind of giving. That does not mean that professing believers should watch the offering plate past without putting something in. You don’t have to stand up and wave your check. I turn my envelop upside down. No one needs to know the amount but they need to see me give. I’d be a hypocrite if I talked about giving and I didn’t give. No one should be showy about their giving but neither should we be ashamed. I have no problem with revealing all our financial records including the contributions. We are going to do that but I wouldn’t mind personally. June and I are not the leading contributors and that is a good thing. But we tithe and I personally would have no problem with you examining my financial records. If we put that to a vote, it will get voted down. What do you think will motivate people to vote no: fear loss of reward for their incredible gifts or fear reproach when folks realize how little they give. I believe the later is a greater problem than the first.
When ever the opportunity to give comes up, you should be in front of the line anxious and ready to give. You don’t have to give $100 dollars every time the plate is passed but you need to give something because someone is watching you. I’m not talking about Jesus, He is watching but their are others in the congregation that are watching you, especially if you are a leader. They are looking to see if you demonstrate your faith.
I do agree that some things need to be done in private: you don’t make a spectacle out of helping someone but at the same time you don’t put the candle under a bowl. You only concern is motive. In terms of giving who expressed the most faith in their gift in the bible?
Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. 42 Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins.
43 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. 44 For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”
It is not the amount that counts: it is the faith expressed and the motive. Jesus did not rebuke this woman for giving in public because her motive was pure. Any time people begin talking about secrecy and they don’t do things to been seen of men; what it really means is they don’t do anything.
You can’t convince me in a thousand life times that a man who loves his family when he refuses to support them financially. Trust me, there are men who don’t.