Passage: What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such a faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Journal: James has already pointed out that salvation does not come by works, but rather is a "gift . . . from above" (James 1:17-18). However, his particular emphasis here is not the origin of faith but rather the genuineness of that faith; whether the faith is living or dead. A living faith is a gift received from God. A dead faith is a mere proclamation by man. The final exam for whether a "living" faith is possessed by the claimed believer is a test of works - whether the person manifests a righteous behavior that obeys God's word and reflects God's character. That is, what we do is a revelation of who we are (and whose we are). A recurring theme of the Bible in general, and the teaching of Jesus in particular, is that a child of God should help the poor and others in need (James has already mentioned "visiting orphans and widows in their trouble . . ."). The passage today is no different ("Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?"). It is incongruent to state that you are a follower of Christ without actually attempting to follow Christ. ("In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.") I must actively seek out those in need, and I must do that within my power to meet that need. In this I give glory to my God, and I portray to others that I possess that "good . . . and perfect gift . . . from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." A dead faith is killed by mere intellect and buried in a tomb of selfishness. A living faith is conceived in God's wisdom and flourishes in the light of selflessness.
Proverbs 3:27-28 -- "Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, 'Come back later; I'll give it tomorrow' -- when you now have it with you."