What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2:14-17
Dead: deprived of life; lacking power or effect, useless (from Merriam-Webster)
What is the point of faith if it is dead? How can I be assured that I have a living and active faith?
To understand James, we need to know the context in which he was speaking, and specifically, his audience. The text begins “if someone says he has faith…” In other words, James directs his words to those claiming to have faith. James challenges those who are making that claim to examine whether it is true. A living faith, James exhorts, will show itself in works. So the real question is, do we understand what we are claiming when we say we believe in Jesus Christ? Do we understand what it means to claim to have faith?
Paul declared, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) To believe in Jesus Christ, to have faith, this must be our confession. This confession implies many facets. This confession acknowledges a belief that Jesus did what He claimed to do. If He was raised from the dead, the plan of God was complete—He demonstrated that He was God, that He died for our sins, and that He conquered death. But James says, even the demons believe God is one. (James 2:19 “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!”) What more does true faith believe? True faith believes that Jesus is Lord of all. It is an unconditional surrender. It means that we have made Jesus Lord of our finances, Lord of our bodies, Lord of our tongue—Lord of all! And If we believe Jesus is our Lord of all, we will be compelled by the Holy Spirit to feed those in need. We will be compelled to follow God’s Word. Naturally, there will be evidence of our faith.
Alive: not dead; active; marked by alertness, energy or activity (from Merriam-Webster)
That is a faith worth having.