Life Lessons from Hard Times – Studies in James
Two of the greatest theological errors in America are the following: I am a Christian because (1) I was born in America, or I was born to a Christian family; or (2) I believe in God, therefore I am a Christian. Wrong. Very wrong.
God has no grandchildren. We don’t get drafted into the kingdom by our biological or national heritage. And we can believe a whole range of things about God but still stand outside the Kingdom of God. James addresses this misnomer with his readers by warning them of counterfeit beliefs.
James 2:18-19. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
1. Belief in God alone is not sufficient – the key is your response. To the imaginary objector who argues that faith and works need not go hand in hand (but only illustrate one to the other), James reminds them that you can no more show what you believe by your works alone, then you can start with your works and demonstrate what you believe. The proof: Men and demons both believe the same truth, that there is one God, but their faith does not produce the same response! We may do well by our belief in God; the demons never will! All they can do is shutter!
2. Faith and works have no built-in connection at all – that results in a Biblical world view. The same creed may produce entirely different kinds of conduct. This lays to rest the objector who complains that his faith should not produce the works and Christian world view defined by James in this section.
3. Faith without actions is worthless – in growing up the Christian to maturity. In the second of four illustrations in this section on the necessity of Christian action to grow up a Christian (the first being that Mercy Triumphs over Judgment from last week), James affirms it is not just what you believe alone which can be counterfeit and do nothing to reflect your status as a true Christian. It is what you do, how you respond both to the One who Redeemed us, and for whom we now follow.
Maybe this is illustrated by this old question: If you died and arrived at heaven’s gate, and St. Peter met you and asked you, why should I let you into heaven? Your answer cannot be, yet but I was born in America, I went to church, I tried to do my best, I believed in God. It must be, because of the redemption provided by Jesus and the cross, for which I also now humbly rely, both in entrance to and commendation in heaven. Best wishes to you in your journey.
– John Moore