Friday 22 March

14What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you?

15If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

What are the “works” without which faith “is dead”? The “works” that manifest faith in my life, may be different from the “works” faith produces in your life. There is no prescription for how faith will necessarily look. Faith is embodied in diverse ways in different peoples’ lives.

In 1:22, James did not simply instruct us to be “doers”; he was not encouraging activity for its own sake. There is no inherent virtue in being busy, even if the “busy” is for the most virtuous activity. Rather, James challenged his reader to be “doers of the word.” The last three words make all the difference. The “word” we are to do is not just any word. It is not the word of guilt, shame, or even well-meaning service for the benefit of all humanity. We are to “be doers of the word,” that is “the implanted word” (1:21). We are challenged to do the word that lives within us.

There is no conflict here between faith and deeds. Deeds are simply an external manifestation of my responsiveness to the internal “word” that is “implanted” in my being.

In James 1:19 the writer warned his audience,

You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen…

Faith hears the word of power and is moved to action by the power of the word. There is no such thing as “faith” that does not manifest in action in the time-bound material realm. To believe is to act, not driven by any formula or prescription, or manipulation, guilt or vainglory, but led by the deep inner truth that moves at the centre of my being. When I listen deeply, I am moved by the word of truth. The actions of faith emerge naturally from my alignment with this word.