What good is it, my brothers and sisters,
if you say you have faith but do not have works? (James 2:14)
There are three facets to a healthy, life-transforming Faith: “Being, Knowing and Doing.” The first is about being in a saving relationship with God, being “In Christ” as Paul puts it. When we come into this saving relationship, submitting ourselves to God in Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are given the first gift to all who believe, the Holy Spirit of God. And it is by the power of God’s Holy Spirit in us that we are propelled into the other two facets of Christian living, knowing God and doing God's will.
What James is talking about in this scripture is this third aspect of the Christian Faith, doing what God has called us to do; that is, living and working for the Glory to God and teh furthering of His Kingdom. Without works, in the end, our faith is of no use to God in growing His Kingdom beyond His radical gift of salvation given us in Christ. Without doing the work God has given us to do, we settle for being consumers of God’s grace rather than anointed instruments for sharing that grace with the world around us. Faith without works leads no one to Christ and meets no human needs. In short, faith without works is a selfish brand of Christianity… it is is lifeless… dead, as James says in v.17.
Scripture elsewhere exhorts us to good works and generous living:
Matthew 5.16: Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Ephesians 2.10: For we are … created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
1 Timothy 6.18: (We) are to be rich in good works, generous, ready to share.
We can define Good Works as the giving of our time and resources to grow the Kingdom of God in this world done out of love and thanksgiving for what Christ has done for us. It is motivated by something St. Paul talks about in Galatians 5:22, the Spiritual Gift of Generosity. Good Works and sacrificial generosity come from having given ourselves to Christ who first gave Himself for us, and we are thus compelled to give ourselves to each other. We are generous because God was first generous with us.
The journey toward generosity is at the heart of the Christian Pilgrimage. It is a journey from human selfishness and self-absorption toward radical generosity and self-giving. The ultimate example of this divine attribute of self-giving is Jesus on the Cross. Christian generosity is counter-cultural in the individualistic and self-absorbed culture in which we live. This culture exhorts us to be consumers, not givers. God’s Holy Spirit exhorts us to be just the opposite. Radical generosity is a sign of our relationship with God and an indicator of our spiritual growth, transformation and Christian maturity. One thing that will surprise the non-Christian world when they see it is the Christian spirit of radical generosity and self-giving
What happens when a church family catches this radical Spirit of Generosity? Lives are touched and changed. God is glorified. James is exhorting us toward a generous Christianity, to be doers of the Word, not just hearers... to be givers, not just consumers It is God’s deep heart’s desire to make us all like Christ, the ultimate giver.