“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?... In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”James 2:14, 17
Until recently, every Illinois prisoner’s religious affiliation was printed on the reverse side of his ID card. At the chapel, this label indicated who belonged to which group. It served a purpose, but—like bumper stickers or online profiles—it was an unreliable way to measure a person’s character.
Anybody can have a label stamped on a card. Anyone can claim to follow Jesus. But as James writes in 2:14, what good is it if our words are not accompanied by works? We do well to pray for the sick and hungry and to wish them “God bless!” However, if we are unwilling to share some cough drops or ramen noodles from the prison commissary, then our confession of faith deserves not only skepticism but a funeral (vv. 15-17)!
While incarcerated I have years to grow in Bible knowledge. But even the demons have accurate theology (v. 19). Better still is putting truth into action, whether like Abraham, who intimately knew the Lord for decades (vv. 20-24), or like Rahab the prostitute (v. 25), whose infant faith brought her to Christ.
The world will best know that we are Christians not by our labels, but by our love (see John 13:35).