A few weeks ago while preaching I shared a story about a farmer in Northern Florida who planted an apple and orange next to each other on his farm. The moral of the story was that the apple tree enjoyed being an apple tree, while the orange tree didn’t want to be anything but an apple. The result? The orange tree became bitter and stop producing beautiful oranges. Instead because of the oranges bitterness and anger, the only thing the orange tree produced was bitterness and anger.
Reality check: We produce who/what we are!
This is exactly the point James is making here in the second half Chapter 2. James 2:14 (NLT) 14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?
Going further I love how James explains that what good is faith if it can’t clothe the naked or feed the hungry? It’s true! Faith is a wonderful and necessary thing, but faith should be the fuel for action.
Faith Like Fuel
Think of it like a machine. The machine is built to accomplish what it’s built for; faith is the fuel that makes the machine spring to life and start producing its product. Faith is not only necessary for salvation, but it should be like jet-fuel in dormant Christian body.
Picture a lawnmower with a gas can sitting next to it. Separately, the lawnmower is in perfectly working condition and the gas in the can won’t get any more gas. Now, the lawnmower won’t be effective at mowing a lawn until it’s filled with gas. But we can’t stop here with the analogy. In fact, the most important point James makes is what’s coming next.
So now we have the lawnmower filled with gas. This is great, but what good is a lawnmower filled with gas that just sits in the garage? (v. 17: So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.) Here’s the reality: A lawnmower filled with gas won’t cut a single blade of grass until it’s pulled out of the garage, started, and placed over the grass! The same is true in our Christian walk!
By My Good Deeds
A person by themselves has the opportunity to do what it was made for; but it’s not until their life is filled with the fuel of faith that they become a Christian. Going further, as James, Paul, and Jesus has said, you need to now put that faith in action! Get out of the garage, get over the grass, and start cutting… you know what I mean.
James 2:18 (NLT) 8 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”
Basically, I will show you that I am filled with the fuel of faith by doing the things that God designed for me to do! James agrees when he give the example of Abraham’s faith in verse 22: You see, his (Abraham’s) faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete.
Fruit in the Greek can be translated, well, “fruit,” but metaphorically it can be translated “results.” I’m advocating that our faith should produce the results (fruit) of good deeds. I’m also advocating where we started: We produce who/what we are!
Matthew 12:33 (NLT) “A tree is identified by its fruit (results). If a tree is good, its fruit (results) will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit (results) will be bad.