PRACTICE: Acting on your beliefs
THOUGHT: Aligning our actions with our beliefs requires intentional effort
Word: James 2:14-26
James’ second discussion of the poor is set in the larger context of the relationship between faith and works. At first glance, it would appear that James is saying the exact opposite of what Paul taught, as, for example, in Galatians 2:16: “yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law.”
The key issue for Paul is how one gains right standing before God, while for James the issue is how one demonstrates to others the claim to have such right-standing. Paul’s focus is inward, and centers on how one’s relationship with God is established. In contrast, James’ focus is outward, centering on relationships with other people. Paul writes about how one begins the Christian life while James writes about how one lives the Christian life. The issue for Paul is justification, while the issue for James is sanctification. It is all a matter of emphasis. Both would agree that men and women are saved by Christ through faith for works.
DEED: Carefully re-read James 2:14-26, and summarize it in 25 words or less:
What example does James uses from Abraham’s life that exemplifies his faith?
Read about Abraham in Genesis 15:1-6 and Romans 4:1-12. (The Message version is helpful here). Do you see the before/after dynamic in operation in Abraham’s life, and how Paul highlights one (establishing relationship) and James the other (demonstrating relationship)?
Belief/Action Alignment: Name a belief you hold dear, and the way you act as a result.
What enables you to act consistently on your belief?
Belief/Action Misalignment: Now think about a belief you have but you know your actions do not support that belief, and write that in the space below. Some examples might be:
- Growing in my relationship with God is important, but I rarely read my Bible.
- Worshiping God is important, but I only come to worship once a month or less.
- Helping my kids grow in their faith is important, but I allow them to prioritize activities over involvement in children’s or youth ministry.
Why do you think you struggle to live out your belief in this area? Be honest about your motivations, priorities, the effort required, etc.
Belief/Action Realignment: Realigning our actions with our beliefs is a multi-step process that requires constant attention and diligence, and it won’t happen overnight, only through asking God to help us. Thinking of the example you wrote above, what is one step you can take to move toward realigning your action with your belief?
MEMORIZE: James 2:17, in either version:
So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. (NRSV)
Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense? (The Message)
A Prayer for this week:
Dear Lord, I want to be more consistent. I want to live out what I say I believe. I need you to help me everyday, since I make choices everyday that align or misalign with my beliefs.
Thank you for Jesus doing for me what I cannot do for myself, and for faith to believe.
Now grant me the strength to act on that belief. In Jesus’ name, Amen.