If we're saved by faith, then why does James say that faith without works isn't real faith? Aren't those two thoughts contrary? This is the typical place where legalism hits the church: "James apparently says that you have to do good things to get to heaven, therefore I earn my way to heaven." While a lot of people might believe that, I don't believe it's particularly true to the message of James (or even of Christ, for that matter). After all, Jesus does talk about the importance of caring for the "least of these" (see my post on this topic here) as tantamount to one's understanding of what it means to follow Him. James' point is that an understanding of grace and a relationship with Christ lead a person to putting faith into action. A real faith is followed by action because a real faith changes a person's heart. And when the heart is changed, it is spurned on do behave differently. True faith has to have feet on it, and if it doesn't, then there is cause for question of whether or not it's real. Ultimately, however, it's not our job to make that judgment call; that is left up to our Heavenly Father.
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Seth is a pastor, author, and speaker who lives in Batesville, Indiana. He is married to Kari, and they have two daughters, Madelyn and Noelle.