Just like a good tree will bear good fruit and a bad tree will only produce poor fruit (Matthew 7:16-17)…our walk with the Lord is all about fruit production. You may have a hundred Bible verses memorized, but if you never put them into usable application…what good are they? Here James is saying, I will show you my faith by taking what I learned and witnessed about the Lord Jesus Christ and put it into practical action. In other words, a work-less faith is a worthless faith when at the end of the day there is no fruit (good works) to show for it.
All of us have been guilty of this. We encounter someone with a urgent physical need…we can’t help but see it and understand the gravity. But what do we do? We walk away, but not before sanctimoniously announcing, “I’ll pray for you.” I can almost see Jesus shaking His head in disappointment. We have blown a chance to show His love through our good deeds. For our faith manifests itself in these good works…demonstrating to the person we’re helping in very tangible ways that God loves them. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus…and by our actions His caring is shown to others.
Throughout the Book of James we see him arguing the difference between faith and active faith. Just believing in God, he says, isn’t enough…for even the demons believe in God. (James 2:19) What the Lord demands from us is to demonstrate our inward trust in Him by outward actions. In other words, to not only hear His Word, but put it into practice. For faith without works is considered dead and accomplishes nothing for the Kingdom of God.
Faith is demonstrated by its works. And when we serve and care for other’s needs, we are actively showing the Lord’s unconditional (Agape) love for us. But don’t think that every time you help others it has to be big, grand, or showy…for Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:42 that just offering a cup of cold water to someone who needs it is a good work. In fact, the very basic definition of the Greek word for “help” in this verse means to wait tables. God will never overlook or ignore your good deeds – regardless of how small or insignificant you might think they are. For what you may see as just a simple kind act…the person receiving it sees Jesus.
God has things for you to be doing. It says here that with loving forethought, He readied them at the dawn of creation just for you. The Lord created you to fulfill these deeds of good to your fellow man…using the gifts, talents, and passions you possess in a totally unique way only you can. Even the vilest of us have the capacity to be kind…for we all are made in God’s image and capable of showing consideration towards others. We love because He first loved us is shown clearly in Titus 2:14, “Jesus gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people who are His very own, eager to do what is good.” Let us be a people who are eager to do what is good.
For many, they’re playing a version of the old game show, “Lets Make a Deal” with God. They’re bartering “good works and deeds” in hopes it will get them a free pass into heaven. Or they’re pinning their eternal hope on the shirt-tails of a Believing Grandparent. Neither will work…for there is no earthly commodity that exists that’s a fair exchange for our soul. We can’t trade anything we have for the free gift of salvation Jesus offers us…and no amount of good deeds will get us any closer to heaven. So the answer to the question, “What can a man give in exchange for his soul?” is simple…there is nothing.