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20 Are you so slow? Do you need to be shown that faith without actions has no value at all? 21 What about Abraham, our father? Wasn’t he shown to be righteous through his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 See, his faith was at work along with his actions. In fact, his faith was made complete by his faithful actions. 23 So the scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and God regarded him as righteous [Genesis 15:6]. What is more, Abraham was called God’s friend. 24 So you see that a person is shown to be righteous through faithful actions and not through faith alone. 25 In the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute shown to be righteous when she received the messengers as her guests and then sent them on by another road? 26 As the lifeless body is dead, so faith without actions is dead.
Like a good preacher, James used examples to show that real people had actively lived out “faith.” He first named a well-known figure—Abraham. Genesis 15:6 showed Abraham’s faith (Paul also quoted that verse in Galatians 3:6). His faith acted in the dramatic Genesis 22 story about his choice to trust God if he needed to sacrifice Isaac. The second example was, well, less likely. “The second person James mentions is Rahab. She appears, initially, to be an unlikely example of faith, since she was a pagan prostitute.” * But Rahab helped two Israelite spies because she believed Israel’s God was real. She turned her belief into action and saved her whole family (cf. Joshua 2:1-13, 6:22-23). As scholar N. T. Wright put it, “She seems to have married an Israelite, and became, remarkably enough, the great-great-grandmother of King David, and hence part of the family tree of Jesus himself (Matthew 1.5).” * Excellent contrasting examples!
Jesus, my Lord and my God, what a price you paid to extend your hand to me in friendship. By your grace give me the willingness to choose friendship with you every day. Amen.
Thinking about the sacrificial acts of faith made by Abraham, Rahab, and other scriptural sisters and brothers, I sometimes wonder about my own acts of faith, and do they qualify me as a friend of God? Again, what a challenge from James! When I reflect on my own life, the choices I have made in the past and even living with now, it has been a challenge to make decisions based upon my faith and relationship with God. Not easy, hardly ever, to make that right decision. It is hard to do. And, sometimes, even harder to live with!
If you have been around me for any length of time, you know that my daughter and her four children (13, 9, 6, 3) live with me! In order for that to happen, it took an act of faith. Can I tell you that I’m not a grandmother that gets excited about always seeing my grands, because living with them can be a challenge (sometimes?)! But as I think about this passage of James and the subsequent consequences of living out my faith, of not just giving lip service, of putting my faith where my mouth is, my DEEP desire is that what I’m doing is pleasing to God and that God sees me as God’s friend!
Can we acknowledge that living out our faith is not always easy? Actually, it is a challenge. Even in my situation, I keep wondering: where is the finish line? Surely, something will take place and I’ll be living that dream I once had of an empty nest! But I don’t see that finish line. So, I have to keep on keeping on. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. Year after year. Trusting and believing that as long as I’m putting my faith into action, continuing in my co-parenting/grandparenting role, working on developing a better attitude (I know James has something to say about that!), perhaps I can take comfort in knowing that I am a friend of God, showing that through the sacrifice of my life right now.
* Both quotes from Wright, N. T., Early Christian Letters for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 19). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.
** Patrick J. Hartin, study note on James 2:23 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 457NT.