Summary: Don't tell me about your faith, show it to me!

Faith In Action

Text: James 2:14-18


1. Illustration: Samuel Bradburn, an ASSOCIATE OF JOHN WESLEY, was highly respected by his friends and used by God as an effective preacher. On one occasion he was in desperate financial need. When Wesley learned of his circumstances, he sent him the following letter: "Dear Sammy: ‘trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.’ Yours affectionately, John Wesley." Attached to the letter was a 5-pound note (then worth about $10). Bradburn’s reply was prompt. "Rev. and Dear Sir: I have often been struck with the beauty of the passage of Scripture quoted in your letter, but I must confess that I never saw such a useful ‘expository note’ on it before." Someone has said, "Pious talk can’t take the place of helpfulness." To profess faith in Christ as Savior and Lord but ignore the needs of fellow believers is inconsistent. James said that true faith translates into compassion in action. The best commentary on faith is actions.

2. What is faith? It is something that you live out in your daily life.

3. According to James...

A. Faith Requires Action

B. Faith Requires Compassion

C. Faith Requires Evidence

4. Let's stand together as we read James 2:14-18.

Proposition: Don't tell me about your faith, show it to me!

Transition: The first thing that James tells us about faith is...

I. Faith Requires Action (14).

A. Can That Faith Save You?

1. There was an early Church Father named Oecumenius who said, "Take note of what spiritual understanding really is. It is not enough to believe in a purely intellectual sense. There has to be some practical application for this belief" (Ancient Christian Commentary On Scripture: James-Jude, 28).

2. That's James point here. What good is faith that doesn't do anything?

3. In v. 14 James tells us, "What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?"

A. The two rhetorical questions about faith without deeds are (1) "What good is it?" (answer: none) and (2) "Can it save?" (answer: no).

B. The first question implies a general lack of any usefulness for a faith without actions.

C. The second question specifies a particular use that is lacking—salvation itself.

D. The combined impact is to declare a thorough uselessness of faith without deeds and, to make it absolutely clear, also to declare its particular uselessness in regard to salvation, which would be the primary point of having faith in the first place (Stulac, IVPNT: James, 108).

E. This person who claims to have faith obviously thinks that his belief alone, without any good actions (deeds done in obedience to God), is satisfactory in God’s sight.

F. However, faith not accompanied by deeds has no saving value.

G. Anyone can say he has faith, but if his lifestyle remains selfish and worldly, then what good is that faith? It is merely faith that believes about Jesus, not faith that believes in him.

H. That kind of faith can’t save anyone. Instead, the faith that saves is faith that proves itself in the actions it produces (Barton, Life Application New Testament Commentary, 1079).

B. Faith In Action

1. Illustration: Henry Blackaby in "Experiencing God" words it this way: What you do in response to God's revelation (invitation to the task) reveals what you believe about God. True faith requires action (135).

2. You can't just talk about faith, you've got to express it outwardly.

A. Galatians 5:6 (NLT)

For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.

B. It does no good to tell someone about your faith if they can't see it.

C. What good is faith that doesn't reach out to those in need?

D. That kind of faith is like the Pharisee in the parable of the Good Samaritan who saw the man in need and walked by him and did nothing.

E. We need to have a faith that shows the love of Christ in action.

F. We need to have the kind of faith that says, "I love you because Jesus first loved me."

G. It's the kind of faith that says, "Let me help because God showed his grace to me.

H. It's the kind of faith that says, "Let me help you in your hour of need because Jesus helped me in my hour of need!"

I. That's the kind of faith that saves!

Transition: Next James tells us that...

II. Faith Requires Compassion (15-16).

A. Good-Bye

1. James not continues his teaching on faith and works by giving an illustration.

2. In vv. 15-16 he says, "Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?"

A. The situation in James's illustration is technically hypothetical ("Suppose . . . ") but probably one he considered quite realistic.

B. James's statement of a brother or sister reflects an envisioning of real action toward real people.

C. We already know many of his readers were living in economic hardship. His illustration does not imply that all Christians were living in poverty, but that in their midst they would be encountering cases of hardship as severe as a lack of sufficient clothing and even "the day's supply of food" (Adamson 1976:122).

D. The hypothetical response to the need is good wishes without any actions, for the needy ones are merely "dismissed with friendly words" (Davids 1982:121).

E. The response to the needy ones begins literally, "Go in peace."

F. The person would be saying not just the secular-sounding translation of the NLT but the more pious "Go in peace. May you be warmed and filled" as an expectation that God would provide for the needy one.

G. This would certainly suit James's context, objecting to "faith" that has pious words but no actions. The uselessness of this response is so obvious and offensive that James needs only to repeat his first rhetorical question: What good is it?

H. James expects that faith will surely lead to actions to meet others' material needs (Stulac, 108).

B. Do Unto Others

1. Illustration: "I heard (this story) from a friend who works with the down-and-out in Chicago: A prostitute came to me in wretched straits, homeless, sick, unable to buy food for her two-year-old daughter. Through sobs and tears, she told me she had been renting out her daughter – two years old… She made more renting out her daughter for an hour than she could earn on her own in a night. She had to do it, she said, to support her own drug habit. I could hardly bear hearing her sordid story… I had no idea what to say to this woman. At last I asked if she had ever thought of going to a church for help. I will never forget the look of pure, naïve shock that crossed her face. "Church!" she cried, "Why would I ever go there? I was already feeling terrible about myself. They’d just make me feel worse." What struck me about my friend’s story is that women much like the prostitute fled toward Jesus, not away from him. The worse a person felt about herself, the more likely she saw Jesus as a refuge. Has the church lost that gift? Evidently the down-and-out, who flocked to Jesus when he lived on earth, no longer feel welcome among his followers."

(Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace?).

2. Our faith is expressed by our compassion for others.

A. Matthew 9:36 (NLT)

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

B. When Jesus saw the crowds of people he had compassion on them.

C. When we see the crowds what do we do? How do we feel?

D. Do we have compassion on them? Or do we have contempt for them?

E. When we see people in need do we think of ways to help or do we wander what they did to get in that situation?

F. Why is that when Jesus walked the earth the helpless flocked to him, but today the shy away from His church?

G. When we see the crowds do we seek ways to help or reason why we can't?

H. When is the church going to rise up and be like Jesus?

Transition: This leads us to what James says next...

III. Faith Requires Evidence (17-18).

A. Show You My Faith

1. Years ago, when I was a very young Christian, I attended a home Bible study taught by an elderly gentleman named Dave Ray. One of the thing that he used to teach us that I have remembered all these years later has to do with this portion of James letter. In Dave's own simple words, "Don't tell me about your faith, show it to me!

2. That in essence is what James is saying in these last few verse that we are going to look at this morning. He says in v. 17, "So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless."

A. His expectation is so strong that he concludes with the most severe condemnation of faith without deeds: it is dead and useless.

B. The words in this sentence by itself, refers back to faith. Placed here, these words emphasize the focus of James's concern, which is faith by itself—that is, faith without the authenticating actions.

C. It is not that he is promoting deeds as an alternative to faith. He obviously knows the value of faith, for he called those who have faith "rich" in 2:5.

D. What James is rejecting is the notion that one can have faith by itself, without the accompanying actions (Stulac, 109).

E. A conviction or intellectual belief that refuses to obey the commands of Christ is unprofitable—it is dead.

F. Good deeds are the fruit of living faith. If there are no positive actions, then the professed faith is no faith at all—it is dead and useless.

G. The right actions prove our faith to be real faith. Believing involves faith keeping company with action.

H. If those around us note our actions, they should be led to know the faith that motivates them.

I. If others hear us speak of faith, they must also see us act out that faith (Barton, 1080).

3. Now in v. 18 is the part my old friend Dave Ray loved so much. James says, "Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”

A. This someone considers faith and good deeds to be separate and alternate expressions of Christianity. “You do your deeds, I’ll have my faith, and we’ll be religious in our own ways.”

B. But the two cannot be separated without ceasing to be alive. Faith lives in the action it generates; actions require faith to gain a particular meaning.

C. James responded with a challenge: “I can’t see your faith if you don’t have good deeds, but I will show you my faith through my good deeds.”

D. In other words, "Don't tell me about your faith, show it to me!"

E. Faith cannot be demonstrated apart from action. Faith is within us; it can only be seen by the actions it produces through us.

F. Anyone can profess faith, but only action shows its genuineness (Barton, Life Application New Testament Commentary, 1080).

B. Show It To Me

1. Illustration: When DAVE THOMAS died in early 2002, he left behind more than just thousands of Wendy’s restaurants. He also left a legacy of being a practical, hard-working man who was respected for his down-to-earth values. Among the pieces of good advice that have outlived the smiling entrepreneur is his view of what Christians should be doing with their lives. Thomas, who as a youngster was influenced for Christ by his grandmother, said that believers should be "roll-up-your-shirt sleeves" Christians.

In his book Well Done, Thomas said, "Roll-up-your-shirtsleeves Christians see Christianity as faith and action. They still make the time to talk with God through prayer, study Scripture with devotion, be super-active in their church and take their ministry to others to spread the Good Word." He went onto say they are "anonymous people who are doing good for Christ may be doing even more good than all the well-known Christians in the world." That statement has more meat in it than a Wendy’s triple burger. Thomas knew ab out hard work in the restaurant business; and he knew it is vital in the spiritual world also. Let’s Roll-up-our-shirt sleeves, there is plenty to do.

2. Faith without action is dead and useless.

A. Matthew 7:18-20 (NLT)

18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.

19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire.

20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.

B. Jesus tells us that if we do not produce good fruit we'll be chopped down and thrown into the fire. Why? Because a tree that doesn't produce good fruit is dead and useless.

C. True faith in Jesus produces actions that are similar to the actions that Jesus displayed.

D. True faith causes us to reach out to those in need.

E. True faith causes us to seek those who need to hear the gospel.

F. True faith causes us to do acts of kindness to those around us even if it means going out of our way.

G. True faith causes others to see Jesus in us because we are doing the things that Jesus did.

H. Don't tell me about your faith, show it to me!


1. What is faith? It is something that you live out in your daily life.

2. According to James...

A. Faith Requires Action

B. Faith Requires Compassion

C. Faith Requires Evidence