As a Christian, when you read the first verse of the passage from James above, you might see a conflict with the teachings of Jesus and others in the New Testament. For it clearly proclaims that the only way to be born again into a New Life is through believing in Jesus Christ as Lord by faith. Faith is the key ingredient and there is no ignoring that. So, what is James talking about needing works for faith to save us?
There's really a simple answer and the key is the requirement that we love others as we love ourselves and that love involves anyone, including those who have been hurtful to us or caused us harm. Love is a clear requirement placed on our faith by Jesus. All it takes to understand that is to realize what Jesus did for us, following the direction of His Father, when he died for us to forgive us, including those who had so brutally crucified Him. Once we were forgiven, all that was needed for us to gain eternity was to believe in Him by faith, faith following His extraordinary work of love. Could anything be a greater act of love than that? Certainly not.
James is merely indicating that if we believe in Lord Jesus as our Savior and commitment to following His example, an example of unending love, that it is impossible for us to not show that love to others in what we do in our life experience. Doing good work for others is a natural consequence of our faith, for how could you go about your life totally self-centered and be practicing of love for your fellow man or woman? You can't.
I first read this short book of the Bible in high school. I was probably interested enough to initially read it since in had my name, but my mother often quoted James about good works and the pitfalls of gossip, which he discussed extensively in his work. And I remember after reading it, seeing an incident in our church parking area which told me a lot about the importance of works showing your faith.
As we walked to our car parked about a block away after church one Sunday, I watched a prominent member of our congregation, a deacon of elder in the church, who was in the process of pulling out of the parking lot on his way home. He was in a big hurry and nearly hit an elderly member crossing the street. He had to see her and she was shaken, yet he gave it no notice in his hurry to get home for Sunday dinner. Mom and I walked over to her, walked her to her car, made sure she was settled and steady, then returned to the family car to go home.
I'll never forget how Mom looked at me approvingly and said, "I know you just read James. See what he meant about good works, Son?"
I've always remembered that and, yes, I never could help but wonder about that man whenever I saw him after that. Oh, well, it just goes to show that it's a good idea to practice what we claim we believe. Sooner or later, others will figure it out, but it doesn't matter, for God always knows. The word of James makes it clear on the relationship between believing by faith and good works. Oh, you can be a non-believer and practice good works, but you can't be a believer and not practice them. The connection is so clear and so important in daily life.
Dear Lord, We thank you for James and his wonderful, short book in the New Testament. We ask that you always guide us to practice our belief in what we do and say and give it our utmost to live as you would have us do. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.