In James 2, the author makes the famous proclamation that faith without works is dead. By saying this he made Martin Luther very angry as his understanding of being saved solely through our faith was really disrupted by this idea. So Luther thought we should take the book out of the Bible.
He didn't mince words
have problems with confidence.
It would seem that James is arguing for faith and works operate together by means of informing one another. There is the assent and the action. The assent is that which we claim to believe. This would be our doctrinal values and all of our beliefs about what it means to follow Jesus. This is where we would state the expectations of a Christian life.
Our actions serve as a type of mirror by which we see whether or not we actually believe those things that we claim in our assent. For example a Christian may claim that Jesus teaches that all human life contains inherent value and as such we should love freely all people as our neighbors regardless of their
She may verbally assent to this claim. However, when she is organizing a meal or a church service at which there will be both powerful and impoverished in attendance, she may arrange it so that the powerful are given the best seats and the impoverished are sent to the outskirts. There is a contradiction between her assent and her action.
Her works demonstrate
that her faith is dead.
Works act to demonstrate the incongruity between our verbal assent and our lived assent. This person does not actually see both the powerful and the impoverished as equally valuable and this is demonstrated by the way she arranges her social and religious space. In this way, our works speak to our faith to actually demonstrate whether or not we have allowed ourselves to be transformed by the faith of Messiah or if we are in need of repentance.
Or take as another example, the Christian who looks at pornography. His assent would be to say that he lives with his wife in sexual union and that in that oneness, his sexuality can only be expressed through her participation.
But he still really
enjoys looking at porn.
While he is cognitively aware that pornography is destructive, the belief has yet to take on flesh in his behavior. His faith here is dead. His faith, his belief that pornography is destructive for society, his wife, and himself mean absolutely nothing until he acts on it.
Yet there is hope.
By looking at our behavior, we find out what we actually believe. We are able to see our failings and flailings. This introspection is essential.
If we try to shrug off the importance of acknowledging and confessing our sins, we are like a man who wakes up the morning after a new haircut. He eats his cereal and does his crunches (or yoga or whatever the kids are doing these days) but walks out of the house without looking in a mirror and patting down all the places where his hair sticks out
all the while telling everyone how great his Barber is.