What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead. (James 2:14-26, NRSV)
I have to say as a Lutheran I have problems with this passage of scripture.
Because yes we are justified by faith. And faith alone saves us.
But I also remember that all of scripture is good for teaching and reproof. So there is something to this faith without works is dead.
You see as Lutherans we are quick to quote Ephesians 2:8-9:
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast.
We want to say we are saved by grace through faith, and it is not by anything that I have done so we can not boast about how good of a follower of Christ I am. It is all up to Christ.
But we stop at verse 9 and we can’t do that. You see verse 10 says:
10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
Yes we are saved by grace through faith, and it is all Christ’s doing, but He saved us, to do the works God prepared for us to do before we were saved! You see faith without works is dead.
We don’t do works to show God we are good enough, we do works to show the world how much God loves them.
So work for God, not for your salvation, but so that the world will see Him in you!