But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe-and tremble, but do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
In this section of scripture we can really summarize the argument James is making down to a single point. Which is works pleasing and acceptable in the sight of God are works which stem from a true faith in Jesus, works that stem out of the love we have for Jesus. James is speaking about behaviors which are the natural byproduct of our love for Jesus. Just as we would perform acts of kindness for the people we love, so to Christians perform acts of kindness for others because of our love for Jesus. We because of our faith in Jesus have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and from His work in us, we gain a supernatural love for others and for Jesus which displays itself in acts of kindness for others and those in need. James begins these passages with a common form of Hellenistic rhetoric. Using this literary device James sets up a hypothetical argument with an imaginary antagonist, in order to continue his discussion about faith and the works which are the natural byproduct of faith.
Many scholars argue whether or not this hypothetical situation represented a real person whom James was dealing with or had dealt with. Or did this stem from a personal issue James himself had dealt with coming from a background of Judaism. Whichever the case James makes the point, that the only real evidence of our faith is the works it produces. In other words, by works James means the changes in our character and in our behavior, brought about by our faith in Jesus and the actions those changes produce, which are visible to those watching us live our lives. And this gets back to the discussion that Christianity is a living faith that saves and not a dead faith of works. Christianity is a faith which makes lives whole again, by restoring lives that were once lost to sin. Christianity is a faith that restores our relationship with God and heals our relationships with those around us. Christianity is a faith that changes lives! Therefore, by this basic definition, our faith if it is real, must produce changes in our lives, changes that are pleasing to God and come as a result of the love we have for Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds. These changes, then produce works visible to those around us, works that stem from the changes salvation has made on our hearts and brought to our lives.