Chapter 2 Verses 15-16:
When making application of a Bible passage it is wise to always begin with context. James’ illustration of clothes and daily food takes on more significance when we realize that he was writing to a group of refugees—individual’s chased from their homes because of religious persecution. They had faith—faith enough to leave their homes for Christ. They did not have jobs, food, shelter, clothes, or a network of friends. James is telling these desperate, heroic Christians that their faith must continue to be expressed through rallying together in the midst of poverty, instead of saying “every Christian for him/herself.” As each one found a job they were to care for the group and not just say, “I’m sure God has something good in store for you. Just trust Him.”
Chapter 2 Verses 18-20:
“Faith and Works”
Some of us are naturally thinkers. Others of us are naturally doers. Some of us prefer to emphasize grace; others truth. God does not give us the freedom of balancing one another out. We are to strive for a balanced expression of Christ’s character in each of our lives. This requires self-awareness. Use the chart below to provide some “laundry baskets” to sort out your life. Consider those areas of faith (i.e., trust, knowledge, hope, etc…) in which you are both strong and weak. Do the same with works (i.e., service, humility, sacrifice, etc…).
What does it mean for faith to be perfected (i.e., made complete) through works? I believe it is helpful here to consider the metaphor of a seed. A good seed will bear fruit. If a seed is planted and it does not bear fruit, it was either a bad seed or a pebble confused for a seed. When the seed bears fruit, it results in more seed. Both seed (faith) and fruit (works) begin to flourish. If we hoard or emphasize either to the exclusion of the other, we lose both. If we only stockpiled seeds, they would go bad and we would starve. If we consumed all the fruit, we would have no seeds to plant.
Go back to the chart on faith and works. Play a matching game. Draw a line between a particular expression of faith that motivates a particular work. Do the lines connect between strength-stength, weakness-weakness, or strength-weakness? What aspects of faith are needed to motivate your quadrant of works/weakness? What expressions of works would make your faith weaknesses more tangible?