Autopsy of a Dead Faith, Part 4: Fruitless Faith
The third way James describes faith is in terms of fruit. Real, living faith bears fruit; dead faith does not.
Often it is easier to prove a point by illustrating the opposite point. That is what James does here. James is writing to a Jewish audience and he chooses to make his point by referring to the father of the nation, Abraham.
We know that Abraham had faith. Genesis 15:6 says: “And Abram [Abraham] believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.” But Abraham’s faith was not a secret faith. His faith was demonstrated. Because of his faith, he was willing to obey God, even at the cost of his own son. What was Abraham doing when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? He was trusting God! The lesson we can draw from Abraham’s life is not a comparison between his sacrifices and ours. We can expect that in one way or another, our faith will have to grow from internal trust to external action. Eventually, like Abraham, we too will have to answer the question, “Do I really trust God?” Abraham’s faith was more than just belief in the one God; his faith bore fruit in his deeds.
Rahab also demonstrated her faith and was rewarded for it. Her story is found in Joshua chapter 2, when the Israelites sent two spies into the city of Jericho prior to conquering it. Rahab came from the exact opposite end of the spectrum from Abraham. She was a pagan. She did not have an honorable profession. There was absolutely no reason for her to help the two spies. But she placed her faith in a God she had heard about. This was a God who had the power to deliver her and her family while the rest of the city was destroyed. But she did not just claim to have faith. She demonstrated that faith by helping the spies to escape. At great personal risk, she believed in the God of the Israelites that were on their way to destroy her home. She was rewarded during her life by being save from destruction when the city was destroyed. She is remembered for bearing a son named Boaz who married Ruth. They had a son named Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse. Jesse had a son named David. David became the king and was an ancestor of Jesus. Rahab’s faith bore fruit and she became part of the lineage of the Savior.