But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
Faith is a verb. Faith is alive. It’s something we do, not something we only think about. It could not be otherwise, because faith is embodied in a relationship with the living God. Living faith is the only kind of faith there is. Faith is alive. It's active and busy; it moves and works in the world. This is why James exhorts, “Show me your faith!”
“Show me your faith!” is a clarion call to do business for God’s sake. “Let me do business in such a way that it shows my faith,” I pray. Let my business show productivity for the sake of others, creativity for the glory of God’s creation, and justice for the sake of those on the margins. Let me do business in such a way that people notice a concern for justice, creativity, and service. Let me do business in such a way that I trust God to take responsibility for the outcomes. That’s the kind of faith that speaks louder than words. That’s a working faith — a faith that works.
This is nothing like “works righteousness.” We do not earn salvation by doing good works — far from it. James’s exhortation in this letter is a charge to let our faith live and breathe and work so that it becomes fulfilled, not stunted or — even worse — dead or dying. “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” [James 2:26]. Living faith is working faith, and is made visible and fulfilled by doing works. James uses the word teleioō (to mature, complete, succeed, and gain perfection) to describe this sense of fulfillment. The same sense is expressed in verse 22: “[Abraham’s] faith worked along with his works, and faith was completed by his works.”
Work takes on a new kind of meaning when we see it as the out-working and working-out of a living faith.
© Bruce D. Baker, 2014