One of the things that James says about faith without works is that it is dead. Dead. I think I miss the strength of that image for a couple of reasons. One reason is that the passage is familiar, so I don’t stop and think about the images he is using which is sad because James has some great imagery. (Chapter 3 has a lot of them.) A second reason I miss the impact is because we call lots of things dead today. Anything that has run out of power is dead. My phone died. My computer died. The car died. James helps me out though because he doesn’t just uses imagery words in chapter 2, but he gives some examples that illustrate his point. One of those examples is Rahab.
The story of Rahab can be found in Joshua chapter 2. Here’s the set-up: God has brought the Israelites out of Egypt. They have been wandering in the desert for over 40 years, and now they are finally ready to enter the land of Canaan. Joshua sends two spies to check out the land. When they arrive in Jericho, Rahab, a prostitute, takes them in and hides them from her own people. She tells the spies that they have all heard about how God has brought them to their doorstep. She makes a faith claim in verse 11: “the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” Her faith is why she protected the spies. Because she believed in God, she asked the spies to protect her when the Israelites conquered Jericho. They make a deal and she helps them escape.
Later when the Israelites come, they march around the town of Jericho once a day for six days. On the seventh day they march around the town seven times, blow the trumpets, shout, and the walls fall down. But God protects Rahab and her family just as the spies promised her. (Joshua 6:22-23)
If Rahab had not acted on her faith by protecting the spies, gathering her family together, and hanging out the scarlet cord, she literally would have been dead. It was only by combining her faith with her works that her faith was rewarded and is known today. Did you know that Rahab the prostitute is listed in Jesus’s genealogy (Matthew 1:5) as the great-great grandmother of King David? Not only that but in Hebrews 11:31 she is part of what we call the Hall of Faith. It says that by faith she protected the spies and was not killed with those who were disobedient. She lived because her faith was displayed in her works. What a great real-life, historical example of James’s statement that faith without works is dead.
So check your faith. Is it dead? Does it need revived? Plug in to the Word of God. Hear what Jesus has to say to you today. Talk to Him. Go to church and worship in community tomorrow. Spend some time recharging your faith this week. Because faith with works is alive!