Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? –James 2:15-16
Several years ago, I was asked to address the children in a church service. The congregation may have regretted it as I began.
First, I had the children hop one-footed from one end of the room to the other. As you can imagine, this was challenging for many, especially the youngest. They hobbled and tottered and cheated their way across the front while adults looked on. Navigating on one foot certainly didn’t come naturally to them.
Then I asked them to walk from one end of the room to the other. Of course, the difference was clear. They had all been walking for at least a couple of years by this point, and they migrated across the front of the room with ease. My request for them to walk appeared silly, really. Where was the challenge in that?
But then I read to them, “Whatgood is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?” James 2:14. In other words, I explained, having only faith or works is like walking on just one leg.
I know. We are saved by faith alone. I believe that and am grateful for it!
But James suggests that faith—real faith—is accompanied by deeds. In fact, he goes so far as to say, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
If my faith is dead, do I really have faith?
Or is it more like I’m trying to cross through life one-legged? If I have just faith, but no deeds, something’s a little off. Out of kilter. Unnatural.
But having deeds apart from faith is no better. James continues in verse 18 to say, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.”
It doesn’t matter much whether we’re hopping on: our right or left leg. We’re still off balance if we lack either faith or works.
To navigate this life successfully, we need both faith and deeds. They work hand-in-hand—or maybe leg-with-leg—to demonstrate sincere faith.
This why we believe it is not enough to only pray for orphans, though that’s crucial. It is not sufficient to preach to orphans, though they certainly need to hear the gospel. We must also feed and clothe and care for the material needs of orphans.
When we pair our faith with deeds others can see, we demonstrate a living faith, one that is effective, inviting and life-giving.