“Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.” – James 2:26 NLT
A human body without breath is responseless, inanimate, and lifeless. Without breath, the blood stops flowing and the brain shuts down. In the same way, faith dies when it isn’t put to work. Faith, without works, is cold and dead.
Most people interpret James’ words to be a kind of litmus test for what real faith is, and I certainly think James had this nuance in mind as he wrote. But I also think he was going deeper than a mere test of legitimate faith. I think his words were ultimately a challenge to us to get moving. To act on what we say we believe on a daily basis.
While Paul, in Romans 5, points to the first moment of following that Abraham demonstrated as a time when he exercised faith, James in this chapter points to a time much later in Abraham’s life when his faith was seasoned but being put to a great test. Would Abraham, who had been a believer for so long, actually act to make an enormous sacrifice on the basis of what he claimed to believe?
That same question is before every believer today. Will we act on what we say we believe? Will we continually depend on the One we proclaim to be perfectly dependable? Will we serve the One to whom we believe all glory belongs? Without action, without works and deeds, is my faith really alive at all?