“You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe – and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” James 2:19, 20
God has given us the planetary system for several very useful purposes and one of them is to note the passing of time. Most of us know our age and could readily state it if asked. Some may be inclined to be less than honest in their answer. The passing of years is also helpful to remind us that we are not going to be on this earth forever and we would do well to reflect on the direction our lives are taking and the ultimate destiny at which we will arrive.
James makes it very clear in his letter that what we do is the outworking of what we believe. That being the case, reflection will reveal what we really believe and what we are. It is very easy to say we believe certain things but our actions and attitudes, our likes and dislikes, will reveal the truth of the matter. What we may say may be proven to be a lie by what we do; or it may confirm that belief.
The Bible states in many ways that salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ alone and it also states that such faith will bring about certain attitudes and behaviours in accord with that faith. James throws out the challenge to show faith without works knowing full well that it is impossible (v 18). It isn’t that good attitude, behaviour or works merits salvation, but that genuine salvation will produce good works. The evidence that a dead person has been raised is that they express the attributes of life. Among other things, they will move, speak, eat and sleep so that we can see they are alive. The same is true of one dead in trespasses and sins whom God has made alive to God (Ephesians 2:4-10).
While the passing from one year to another is no different from any other day passing to the next we can use this marker of the orbit of earth around the sun to measure not just the passing of time but also our growth in faith in Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul often spoke in terms of pressing on toward Christ and knowing Him more intimately (Philippians 3:10). When taking time for reflection we will come to a more reliable evaluation provided we do not look only into our intellectual belief but at what our attitudes have been and the kind of behaviour they produce. Do they indicate that we have been drawing ever nearer to Jesus, that we have been serving His interests or that we have been serving our interests? In reflection does our life match the direction that John the Baptist made his aim, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30)?
It is interesting that in his letter James poses this as a question rather than as a statement. “But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” It may be that the pride in us would rather not know that the lack of godly expression in our attitudes and behaviour reveals the lack of Jesus Christ in our lives.