James 2:14-18

Faith Vs. Hospitality?

Popular Translation

14 Brothers and sisters, if someone claims to believe in God and does not clearly show it, what have they gained? Can the person depend upon their faith alone to bring them closer to God? 15 Imagine if another Christian lived in shabby clothes and did not have enough food for the day. 16 What would happen if one of you told them, “God be with you” or “Stay warm and get some food” without lifting a finger to help them? What would that person really gain? 17 So, faith is dead if it is not backed up with actions. 18 Someone might claim, “You’re full of faith but I am busy acting on my faith.” Can anyone show me real faith without actions? I can show my faith to you by what I do.

Literal Translation

14 What advantage (is there), my brothers, if someone claims to have faith, but might not have works? Is faith not able to save him? 15 If a brother or sister should (merely) exist without (proper) clothing and lacks food for the day, 16 and someone among you should say to them, “Go in peace” or “Be warm and satisfied,” but you should not give them the necessities of the body, what advantage (is there)? 17 And so, faith, if it does not have works, is, by itself, dead.

18 But some will claim, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.

Like many other places in his letter, James set up a dialogue with a straw man, only to knock him down. As it was mentioned in the previous study on James, he had strong moral vision of faith and used a Semitic rhetorical device of exaggeration. (What person in their right mind would leave a fellow Christian to catch cold and remain hungry?) Quite simply, James wages war on the two-dimensional Christian to remind his audience about the importance of hospitality and charity. Both virtues evangelize. A lack of these virtues scandalize. While these virtues should not be used to build one’s reputation, they should not be hidden, either. In the eyes of James, faith proved itself in these virtues. Implicitly, these virtues were an extension of one’s faith.

How have you shown hospitality to your neighbors this week? How have you been charitable to the less fortunate lately? How have these virtues helped you to grow in your faith?