“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14)
James does not say that we must add works to our faith; he says that we do not have faith if it does not change what we do. If we feel the sting of this rebuke, there is no remedy in simply trying to do good works, though that actually may be part of it.
Our highest purpose is to know and love God, and we can only know and love him by faith. But this faith is not something we do. It is something we have, and something we can only get from God. It’s not like money; we don’t pay God for his blessings with it and we don’t horde it to gain credit with him. It has more to do with the way we connect to him.
Having faith is like having an FM radio when you want to listen to an FM station. It’s the only way to tune in to the heart of God, the only way to know him. To know him is to love him, and to love him is to become like him. These are not the 3 simple steps, the ABCs of knowing God. They occur mysteriously and supernaturally, simultaneously and continuously, like the flow of a river. Only this tuned in, flowing-river faith is of any value. Only this faith is alive.
If faith means to me nothing more than agreeing with and arguing for a creed-list of truths, however passionately, then I am seeking the FM station with an AM radio – I will never tune in. I may appear very pious and Christian, confident in my position of agreement with God, and condescending to those who don’t know the truth, but I will never know, never love, and never become like God. James’s rebuke is for me. I must see that I am using the wrong radio, the wrong approach to God, and it won’t work.
How do we get this right kind of radio from God? He has to build it in our heart, and that can only happen with some cooperation from us. Though we cannot demand it or deserve it, we must desire it and hunger for it and embrace it . We must make straight paths for him in humility, surrender and agreement. And yes, we can help it along by doing good to someone else.
For the good done to another in love and faith, is done to God himself. Jesus said that. Another part of the mystery. When we love another, we feel the love of God in us and through us, we experience the love of God for us, and we love God for his love. This mystical and majestic river of love and faith springs from God through us to another, and simultaneously through us to God, living, growing and overflowing. This is faith that works.