James 2:17, Faith without works is dead.
Much has been said about the meaning of this verse. Some think it conflicts with Paul’s teachings that justification is by faith alone. They maintain that salvation is through faith and good works. I don’t think this is the case. God’s word does not contradict itself and there are too many passages that clearly say that we are saved by faith in Christ.
So what is James saying. I think he is making the point that faith is different from belief. Faith involves action. It is an action word. 1 Corinthians 5:7 says we walk by faith, not by sight. Faith involves doing and not just believing. James even says in verse 19 that to believe in God makes one equal to a demon. Having faith in God means something more.
It means that we do. That we step out, that we walk. But not just anywhere or in any way. We do what God tells us to do. We walk down the path that He shows us. We listen to His voice and take the path of action He dictates. We don’t sit still, we act, but we act according to His will.
There is a teaching today that tells us to just trust God to solve your problem. Give your financial problem or your addiction or your bad situation to Him and He will take care of it. If we just have enough faith then He will answer. I think that is what James was trying to counter. We can’t usually pray our way out of something we have behaved our way into. God wants to bring us out of the darkness but He leads us out. We have to walk out. Step by step, choice by choice. Faith is believing that God will show me the way out and then starting down that path. Action follows faith. Otherwise it is just belief.