Daily Devotional - 10 July 2020
“What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
Now someone may argue, ‘Some people have faith; others have good deeds.’ But I say, ‘How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.’
You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless” (James 2:14-20)?
Martin Luther was not a fan of the Book of James; he felt it preached a message that encouraged people to earn the free gift of salvation by doing good deeds. Our salvation was purchased by Jesus alone and it is only through belief in Him that we can receive it as a free gift. Those are God’s terms and there is no other way for humans to know God’s forgiveness, mercy and grace. As a result, Luther dubbed it an ‘epistle of straw’–a letter unworthy of being included in the Bible.
Luther’s view of the Book of James is understandable considering his religious background; the church of his day had become immersed in a theology of salvation through works. The priests taught that God’s grace could be and must be earned. They had rejected the reality of humanity’s inability to obtain their assurance of God’s favour through the work of Jesus alone. I have entirely different view of this letter written by Jesus’ brother to the early church.
Times have changed and selfishness has creeped into the Gospel message, with an unhealthy focus on ‘what’s in it for me?’ We live in a day and age where faith has become a private, individual affair. We have become too accustomed to the ‘freeness’ of God’s gift and have forgotten that there is a cost to be paid–obedience. We are no longer free to live life any way we please. By accepting God’s good plan, we have chosen to follow a new ‘boss’–that’s part of the package. The free gift of salvation is realized by the disciple who continues to walk in faithfulness, living to love God and love others everyday in tangible ways. We won’t get it perfectly right every time, but that is not what is important. What counts is the day to day growing of our faith that happens as we continue to obey God through the instructions contained in His Word.
I appreciate how Billy Graham has explained it, “To have peace ‘with’ God and to have the peace ‘of’ God in our hearts is not enough. This vertical relationship must have a horizontal outworking, or our faith is in vain. Jesus said that we were to love the Lord with all our hearts and our neighbours as ourselves.
This dual love for God and others is like the positive and negative poles of a battery–unless both connections are made, we have no power. A personal faith is useless unless it has a social application...
If we have peace ‘with’ God and the peace ‘of’ God, we will become peacemakers. We will not only strive to be at peace with our neighbours, but will be leading them to discover the source of true peace in Christ. Is the peace of Christ in your life overflowing to others” (Hope for Each New Day, July 10)?
To that I would add, is the grace of God in your life overflowing to others? Forgiveness? Love? Generosity? Compassion? If not, why not? It’s time to take a fresh look at James’ warning, “faith without good deeds is useless.”
~ Pastor Jane
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!