Daily reading: 26 November
What do you have faith in?
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
- James 2:14-17.
Justification by faith was a central tenet of Paul’s writing (Romans 5:1, for example). The close paraphrasing of this in the letter of James suggests that the author was familiar with this teaching.
Some hold that this was a response to a distortion of Paul’s teaching, speaking to those who saw their faith as precluding a commitment to human need. Faith and works are not seen here as distinct things. Our faith is incomplete, it is suggested, unless it is underpinned by works.
And the author is absolutely clear about what works our faith needs. It is attending to physical needs, feeding and clothing our brother and sister. If we do not do this, our faith is hollow.
If we talk of our faith, we might stop to ask what our faith is in.
Because if the narrative of the people of God means anything to us at all, we cannot ignore the teaching of the Old Testament prophets, and the mission and ministry of Jesus, who proclaims himself to be the fulfilment of this prophecy, the anointed one who will preach good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind.
If we have faith in this figure, his proclamation of good news to the poor must surely be an integral part of our faith.
Loving God, who in Jesus shows us what love is, help us not to lose sight of this love. Give us the courage to live it out so that our faith may be seen in all that we do and our belief may be a way of life.
Today's contributor is Reverend Kate Tuckett, former Church Resources Manager for Christian Aid, now the vicar of St Alban North Harrow, Diocese of London.
Published on 26 November 2019