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 (NLT)
How does one know that there is helium inside a balloon? We know that there is helium in the balloon because it floats in the air. That’s the reason the balloon is able to defy gravity. Helium is much lighter than the typical surrounding air so it is able to carry the weight of the balloon against the pull of gravity.
At our growth group meeting last night, we touched upon faith. One remarked that it is a very personal thing and that it is a matter between you and God. Absolutely! When a person acknowledges his sin and helplessness and puts his trust in what Jesus Christ has already done on the cross to save him from sin and its consequence, faith is behind that act. That person is ushered into an intimate and very private relationship with Christ.
But one thing we must never forget is that while faith is very much a private affair, it is demonstrated publicly. While salvation comes as a result of one’s personal trust in what Jesus has done on the cross, Christian service is the result of one’s public testimony of that faith. They are closely linked to each other. In Galatians 5:22-23 Paul indicates, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things.” The fruit of the Holy Spirit is confirmed through these evidential acts of the Spirit’s influence in one’s life; in that we get to know about that person’s faith by the public fruit that faith brings forth in his life.
When Paul for example makes the case in how leaders in the church are selected (1 Timothy 3:1-13), he establishes key qualifications shown in how that person lives. In essence, Paul is saying that we choose these leaders based on the kind of life they live – “Before they are appointed as deacons, let them be closely examined. If they pass the test, then let them serve as deacons.” (v. 10). We don’t judge them but we are allowed to “examine” them to see if they are right for the service. And how do we make such an assessment? Through the evidence of how that transformative faith produces the kind of fruit that God says must be reflected in that person’s behaviour.
The visible power manifested in the balloon’s defiance of gravity comes from the invisible power at work within. The author James then deserves our amen when he says, “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” – James 2:17.