As we were going through James 2: 14-26, we talked a lot about faith and good deeds. This topic comes up a lot across all denominations and faiths. It is what often times differentiates us into these subgroups that typically keep us all divided. Some groups believe that, in order to get into Heaven, you have to act out the part. Others believe that all you need is faith and belief in Jesus Christ. In this passage, we see that both are required pieces to the puzzle. With this information, the question goes from “Do good deeds save?” to “How do good deeds and my faith intertwine?” Now, I want to focus on that last verse- “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” (James 2:26, NIV).
I’m going to get a little science-y and medical here, so bear with me. In some translations, the word used is breath or air instead of spirit. To keep up with this analogy, we have to understand how the body and air go together. Yes, we all know that we need air to live, but there is something more than that. Oxygen is used by the body to perform every single thing including cell respiration, thinking, and movement. In other words, air propels the body to move forward.
Quality of life (in healthcare) is the satisfaction that a person gets from how they are living in their present circumstances. Since air is what makes the body move and work, it is also responsible for how well we can live our lives. Impaired oxygenation and perfusion (getting air to the rest of the body), such as COPD or heart failure, is survivable, but it alters the quality of life the person has. I promise, I am going somewhere with this.
Now back to the new question posed at the beginning. The answer lies within all of this medical, science-y soup. We were taught in grade school English about comparisons (this is to this as that is to that), which is exactly what we see in this verse. The body is equivalent to faith and air is equivalent to deeds. Following this logic, faith needs deeds to propel it forward, just as the body needs air to do the same. The quality of faith can be seen through the deeds that we do. Without the deeds, we have an altered quality of faith.
What do we do with this information? How does this change how we live our lives? After having this revelation in Life Group, I came to the realization that I personally needed to change my outlook on life and my actions. I challenge you to stop thinking of how good deeds can get you into Heaven, and start thinking of how they can better your faith and your relationship with God. As an added bonus, try living out your faith and see just how much of a difference it makes in your everyday life.
All the best,
Candice Elkins, Member of Impact at IUPUI
P.S. Don’t get disappointed when things don’t immediately change. These things take time and effort, and we are imperfect beings. Remember, you are not alone in this and with God all things are possible.