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Autopsy of a Dead Faith, Part 2: Empty Words

June 11, 2012

This is a continuation of a post from last week. You can find part 1 here.

The first way James describes this dead faith is that it is a faith of empty words. He starts out by asking a couple of rhetorical questions. The implied answer to each of these is an emphatic “NO”. It’s really important to understand he is not saying that we are not saved by faith; he is saying that saving faith produces actions. This is no different than what Paul writes in Ephesians:

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:8-10, New Living Translation)

Then James illustrates his point with a real life type of situation they might have encountered any day. If they were to encounter someone who was less fortunate; they did not have enough food to eat or clothing to be decent. What would this “person of faith” do about it? Would they wish them well and send them on their way? Would they be really spiritual about it and commit to pray for them? Or would they actually do something about the problem?

Often, we just want to ignore the problems around us – but that is not what we are called to do. The problem is not that the “person of faith” answered by saying “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”. The problem is they let that substitute as a religious cover for the failure to act. Singer/songwriter Josh Wilson wrote about this in his song, I Refuse:

Sometimes I, I just want to close my eyes

And act like everyone’s alright

When I know they’re not

This world needs God, but it’s easier to stand and watch

I could pray a prayer and just move on

Like nothing’s wrong

But I Refuse


I can hear the least of these, crying out so desperately

And I know we are the hands and feet of You, oh God

So if You say move, it’s time for me to follow through

And do what I was made to do

And show them who You are



I refuse to stand and watch the weary and lost cry out for help

I refuse to turn my back and try and act like all is well

I refuse to stay unchanged, to wait another day to die to myself

I refuse to make one more excuse



I don’t want to live like I don’t care

I don’t want to say another empty prayer

Oh, I refuse to sit around and wait for someone else

To do what God has called me to do myself

I could choose not to move

But I refuse

James comparison is not between faith and works. It is between a dead, useless faith and a living, vibrant faith. Empty words betray a dead faith.

Just because we say it doesn’t make it so. The story is told that Abraham Lincoln once asked a boy if a dog has four legs and you call his tail a leg, then how many does he have? The little boy said five. Lincoln replied: “No, he still just has four legs, it doesn’t matter what you call his tail, it’s still a tail.” You can call it a leg if you want to; that doesn’t make it a leg. If a man says he has faith, that doesn’t mean he has faith. It is possible to have profession without possession. Repeating words to a cold and hungry person cannot warm them and feed them. Simply speaking words cannot save a life.

As always, please leave your comments below. More to come on this topic soon!


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