James 2:14, Faith vs. Works

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

//The book of James, with its focus on practical living, is a book that barely snuck into the canon. If you’ll forgive my bluntness, some Christians are more interested in receiving than doing, and that attitude would rankle James. The following verse at times appears to be glossed over like a blip across the screen:

James 1:22, But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

Christianity’s emphasis on grace and belief seems commonplace to us today, but neither of these are common focal points of other religions. For example, Christianity’s parent religion, Judaism, is often criticized by Christians because its adherents often seem not to believe their own stories. Jews, however, are often puzzled by this concern, and by Christians’ lazy, unregulated practices and reliance upon grace. As a Jew, you practice your religion by doing, adhering to God’s teachings, not by believing.

By contrast, reformed Christianity is founded on just the opposite opinion. Martin Luther was known to rip the book of James, with its blasphemous teaching that we are saved by works rather than faith, from his Bible. Luther was a character; he claimed James was “an epistle of straw,” hated the book of Esther (which has no mention whatsoever of God), and said he saw no evidence of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration in Revelation.

Christianity clings to the flavor of the majority of its founding writers and their spectacular claim that the Messiah has arrived, and the Messianic age of God’s favor has begun. But can we bathe in grace, just believing and enjoying, or is it our responsibility to share in supporting the Messianic age by good works?

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks for this info on the book of James

  2. What surprises me even more is how much Jesus talks about works, and how little about grace. After a short moment of thinking, I can think of five or six parables off the top of my head that describe in no uncertain terms people who are rewarded for doing the right thing and/or punished for inaction.

    It’s not like the book of James is a lone voice on this issue. From what I can see, the majority of the gospels seem to side with it.

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