The more we read of letter of James, the more it begins to sound like James was speaking to a people withing the context of the issues that they were experiencing.  As we continue with , we are seeing a very well known passage of “faith without works is dead.”  We see James calling Christians to not just focus on the rich, or the well off, but to help those who are poor and in rough shape.

It reminds us of the story of when Samuel was sent to the house of Jesse.  Samuel looks at the first born and says that he must be who God has called.  But God says no.  He then goes to the second born, and again God says no.  Ultimately, God would choose the youngest son David.  We then are given an insight into God in  saying “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord loos at the heart.”

So many will pair this passage with that of , where we see Paul stating a seemingly conflicting statements.  But that shallow comparison breaks down when you really pair them together.  What they both show is that faith is the foundation of salvation.  Paul states that without faith, any number of good works will not provide salvation in itself.  James shines a light from a different angle showing that if we live in faith, our works will reflect that.

So we are asking a personal question we should each ponder.  What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?

So James gives us an illustration that is a little absurd about a man on the street without clothes, cold, and hungry.  And how many of us would walk by and wish them well, tell them to keep warm, and then keep on walking.  Would any of us do that?

James then addresses directly those who would stand only on deeds, and not faith.  But James says that my deeds are because of my faith.  People would then continue to say that they believe in one God.  And James responds “Good!” but then points out that even demons, the lowest in the spiritual world believe in God.

James is showing that a faithful relationship with Jesus results in a obedience. They go together, but cannot exist outside of each other.  A man cannot marry a woman and then act outside the boundaries of that marriage.  In the same way, we cannot have faith and then live willingly outside the boundaries of that faith.

Can you see how this might have been a recorded conversation between James and some group of people?  It almost sounds like something that would have been discussed around a table about growing in the truth of Jesus’ provided salvation and what that means in their lives.  And it is good for us to continue to reflect on this in our own lives as well.

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? (ESV)

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (ESV)

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? (ESV)

16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (ESV)

15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (ESV)

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! (ESV)