Faith During Trials and Loving Deeds (James 2:14-26)

  1. Horrible Days (Jas 1:1-4), or The Way to Maturity and Wholeness.
  2. How to Know What's Going On (Jas 1:5-12), or A Prayer that God is Always Happy to Answer.
  3. When Trials Become Temptations (Jas 1:13-21), or God Never Tempts Anyone.
  4. Self-Deceived Christians (Jas 1:22-27), or When Reading and Studying the Bible Makes You Worse.
  5. Showing Favoritism (Jas 2:1-13), Trust God rather than show favoritism toward influential people.
How can we know if our faith during our trying times and troubling trials will bring forth the blessing of God which James calls "a crown of life" (Jas 1:12)? There is a way to know whether your faith is alive and vital, and will see you through the trial to the good end that God intends (Jas 1:4). Here's how. Very simply, James says that your loving deeds toward others reveal a liging faith. Your loving acts of compassion and mercy show that you have a genuine trusting faith that will see you through the trials to God's reward.  Read James 2:14-17.

When one is in an ongoing painful trial, our faith may be sorely tested to persevere as our expression to trust God (Jas 1:2-3). When we trust God during times of difficulty James says that Christians must "keep a tight reign on their tongues" (Jas 1:26), instead of cursing others who we think may be contributing to our trial (Jas 3:9-10) and slandering fellow believers whom we disagree with (Jas 3:11).

Also during times painful trials, James says that we must act lovingly toward the most unfortunate and needy in our community (Jas 1:27a) and to not be tempted to solve our difficult trials by using the ways of the world (Jas 1:27b), such as lashing out against others who we think are aggravating our difficulties (3:1-4:12) and accumulating wealth to solve our problems (4:13-5:6).

Faith during the trial. When James asks, "Can such faith save them?" (Jas 2:14), he is not speaking about your eternal salvation. He's looking at being taken safely through your trials, being delivered from sinning during your prolonged troubles. James had earlier said to "humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you" (Jas 1:21), meaning that God's Word would safely guide you through temptation; it would save or deliver you from becoming angry with God and blaming him (Jas 1:13). Similarly, here James is looking at the quality or nature of your faith that will safely take you through your trials.

Faith that God is working good through your trial. The faith James has in mind is not faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. Rather it is the vital trusting faith that humbly submits to what God is doing, and as a result will stand the test and receive the reward (Jas 1:2-4, 12).

The evidence that we have the kind of faith that will safely take us through our trials to God's good reward is by doing good deeds of love and compassion for others (Jas 1:27a) and by not showing favoritism (Jas 2:1). But our faith is dead if it is not accompanied by good deeds of love for others (Jas 1:17), because we are to self-preoccupied with our own difficulties during our trial that we do not love enough to care and bother with the trials that others may be similarly going through. What use is such a claim of having faith when we ignore the pain and distress of other fellow believers (Jas 2:15-16), who are in the category of "orphans and widows in their distress" (Jas 1:27a).

A faith divorced from tangible acts of mercy and compassion expressed toward others is insufficient to take us safely through our own trials. Thus, James says twice that such a loveless faith is dead and useless (Jas 1:17, 20).

The greatest command in Scripture--"the royal law found in Scripture" (Jas 1:8)--is to love. There is no situation in life where God says that this command can be ignored or voided. So even if one is going through painful trials, God expects Christians to love others, especially the weakest and the most vulnerable (Jas 1:27a), even if it costs us and even to our own potential loss. Loving others may be the way that we persevere through our own painful trials and become mature and whole in the process (Jas 1:2-4).

Then James imagines an objection (Jas 2:18a) that it is possible to have faith that God is working through trials and not have loving deeds for others. James' response is to offer three biblical examples to prove the necessary connection between faith and deeds--that unless faith in God's working is accompanied by tangible acts of love, it is a meaningless, dead faith.
  1. A negative example (Jas 2:18b-19). Demons believe in God but never have good deeds of love.
  2. A positive example with Abraham (Jas 2:20-24; Gen 15:1-6; Genesis 22). Abraham's "faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did" (Jas 2:22). This living faith carried Abraham safely through the years to the "crown of life" (Jas 1:12) that he receive the honor of being called God's friend (2 Chron 20:7; Isa 41:18).
  3. A positive example with Rahab (Jas 2:25-26).
Loving deeds do indeed prove the reality of one's faith that God is good and that God intends good for us through this painful trial. Our concrete acts may not be as dramatic as Abraham's or Rahab's, but they can still demonstrate a living faith that I trust God enough to obey the royal law found in Scripture by loving others.