For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead. (James 2:26)
This is, in truth, an odd comparison. Generally, if we were to look at faith and works versus body and spirit, we would see the body having to do with works and faith having to do with the spirit. Yet, here our author has compared these items in the exact opposite way.
What can this teach us?
First, it displays that just as faith is necessary, so is the body. Thanks to generations of writers who have seen our earthly bodies as disposable, we have lost touch with the importance of God’s creation in our physical selves. Not so for this and other ancient authors.
Faith is entirely a matter for the body. In other words, faith requires the whole self, including our flesh and bones – made to be a part of the world God originally intended. We are to care for our bodies so that our bodies can care for others.
A second thing that this comparison from James teaches is that works are the spirit of faith. They are its core exhalation – for remember that the word for spirit in Hebrew literally means “breath.”
Just as we cannot live without breathing, so our faith will not be alive and thriving without works that demonstrate its meaning. Faith is not lip-service or simply following a simple plan of “right and wrong.” Instead, we are invited into a life-changing way of being that will transform everything we’ve ever known, thought, and been.
My prayer for all of us is that we will take this verse from James into our hearts and truly learn what it means for our lives.