(James 1:22-27, 2:14-26)
ST. JAMES TEACHING ON FAITH AND WORK
Faith means trust or belief. St. James, in his epistle, admonished Christians who genuinely believe in Jesus Christ to reflect their belief and faith in their lifestyle. This means that Christians in their daily life should practice the gospel of Jesus Christ and the word of God which is love, honesty, forgiveness, humility, faithfulness and charity. Any Christian who does not practice these virtues is not regarded as a faithful Christian. According to James, Christians must combine their faith with work. This means that any Christian who does not practice the moral principles of Christianity is not a good Christian. St. James puts it this way;
“But be the doers of the word, and not the hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who observes his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like” (James 1:22 – 24)
A doer of the word is one who looks into the perfect law of Jesus Christ which is the law of liberty; and with perseverance, does not forget easily but acts on it. Such a person receives God’s blessings. James went further to say that a truly religious man (the doer of the word) controls his tongue. Anyone who does not control his tongue deceives himself and his religion is in vain. For one to practice an acceptable religion before God, one should be able to visit orphans and widows in their afflictions and keep oneself undefiled by the world. St. James went further to buttress his argument that faith without work is dead (James 2:14 – 17). He said it is useless for any man to say he has faith whereas he is not doing any work to show for his faith; such faith, St. James said, is dead. He gave an analogy of one who needed food and clothing and approached his fellow Christian for help. Instead of giving him what he wanted, the Christian said, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled”. St. James said such faith is useless. Faith must be combined with practical Christian work to produce the desired result.
St. James remarked that those who have the belief in God without expressing action to justify their faith are not different from the devil because the devil also believes in God but does not do the work of God. To support his points, he cited the case of Abraham and Rahab. Abraham, he said was justified by his work when he offered Isaac on the altar. In this instance, faith was active with his works. For this reason it was written, “Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” and he was equally called the friend of God. A man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, Rahab, the harlot, was justified by her work when she received and protected the messengers sent to spy Jericho.
James concluded by saying that just as the physical body without spirit is dead, so also faith without work is dead.
Ways by which Christians can demonstrate their Faith based on the Teaching of St. James
- Christians should help unemployed to be employed by establishing vocational/technical institute for training of the unemployed.
- They should ensure good governance by participating in government and putting their faith to practice.
- They should help the poor and the needy around them within and outside the church.
- All Christians are expected to participate in church activities in accordance with the level of ability God has given them.
- Wealthy Christians should establish orphanages, mental homes and vocational institutions to take care of less privileged.
- A good Christian should make the work of charity and justice his/ her watch word.
Behaviours not Expected of a Christian According to St. James’ Teaching
A good Christian is expected to control his/her tongue. Christians must not involve themselves in slanderous remarks, lying, perjury, speaking in indecent and abusive languages to others.