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I have been very concerned lately with James 2 (starting on verse 14), as this appears to be central to one's faith and salvation - especially with actions related to faith.

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? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, "Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well"--but then you don't give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. 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." You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can't you see that faith without good deeds is useless? Don't you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. (NLT-SE translation)

I would like to know what specific deeds/actions James is referring to.

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    Hello Albert, I can see you are already familiar with Stack Exchange, but welcome to the Biblical Hermeneutics Q&A site. If you haven't done so already, check out the site tour and read up on how this site is a little different than other sites around the web. Remember - this site is not a forum. You can however ask questions about how to interpret a specific text. Generally we do not do pastoral advice type of questions (similar to the Christianity SE) however a question about what James means by "actions" is on topic, so I have edited to match. – James Shewey Dec 22 '15 at 19:18
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A full "list" of specific "actions" cannot be made. Life is too complicated for that. However, the context you quote itself mentions two things that point to what is meant generally. Note the bolded parts from the quote:

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? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, "Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well"--but then you don't give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. 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." You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can't you see that faith without good deeds is useless? Don't you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. (NLT-SE translation)

The two bolded statements are illustrations of the two commands that Christ said in Mathew 22 that all the Mosaic Law hung upon (NKJV):1

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

These two laws are mentioned first in Deut 6:5 for loving God and Lev 19:18 for loving one's neighbor, but all of the Law God gave through Moses can be mapped to one or the other of these two foundational principles/commands. This is because the concepts commanded in those are foundational to all morality. If one loves God, they will obey Him in all things; if one loves others as oneself, then they will treat others with the dignity, respect, grace, etc. that they show to themselves.

So back to the illustrations in James 2. To feed and cloth someone because they are hungry and cold is exactly what a (sane) person would do to themselves if they were hungry and cold (assuming they had the ability to do so). To obey God, even to the point of being willing to sacrifice one's own child to do so, shows that God is truly first—the real love of one's life above all else.

So the "actions" one needs to do are love God and love others in a true love way.

True love, I state, because people are often tempted to tolerate sin in another person's life and call that a "loving" action toward them. But one is not loving God's decree of a sin as being sin if sin is tolerated, and so such tolerance fails the first commandment, even though the tolerance gives superficial pretense to following the second. The order of the commands Christ gives for which is first and second is important to knowing what defines a real "loving" action.

So there are countless "actions" that fall under those two categories. This is why a "list" cannot be given.

But James' argument is that if one says they believe in God, yet does not consistently (not necessarily perfectly) express love towards God by obeying Him and love towards others by caring for their needs (physical, emotional, spiritual, etc.; and especially not treating the needs lightly when you have the means to help), then one is not showing that they really have a true faith—a living faith. A living faith, one that moves and works to express that faith in God in a tangible way to God and others, proving that such a faith is behind the action.


NOTES

1 For a good, short summary of the relation between the Book of James and Jesus' teaching, see part of this answer about the authorship of James.

  • Thank you for your answer ScottS, I know that a full comprehensive list would be hard, but I'm looking for points within the bible. As creating cross references is hard and we do have them, I would like to know the most important ones which are directly written in the Bible, as of others that are not written directly but they are done for good. – Albert Vonpupp Dec 22 '15 at 22:20
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    @AlbertVonpupp: Your statement shows a misunderstanding still. Righteousness of works requires perfection as the ultimate goal, meaning there is no such thing as "the most important ones" (whether directly written in the Bible or not). James 2:10 notes offending in any point is as if you offended in all (or any) with respect to guilt. And that is just in reference to the Law; that is not counting that God designed people to be like Him (Gen 1:26), including fully righteous. So creating a list, even from the Bible, misses the point that we are to do righteously in the fullest sense. – ScottS Dec 22 '15 at 22:34
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    Here is one list of 1050 commands in just the NT. I cannot attest to the accuracy of it, nor what level of overlap, not the context of each to know whether it applies generally to anyone. I hope, however, that is shows to some extent the fruitlessness of seeking a list to follow, rather than taking the commands as general principles of how to live. There is a reason Christ summed morality in those two commands, because again, an exhaustive list is impossible to follow. But two base principles are easy to remember and live by. – ScottS Dec 22 '15 at 22:38
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    @AlbertVonpupp: However, one thing I do disagree with that link in the previous comment is this: "If obeyed, they will bring rich rewards here and forever; if disobeyed, they will bring condemnation and eternal punishment." Eternal punishment does not come from disobeying that list of commands, but from disbelieving that Christ is provided by God as one's Savior. So their motive for publishing the list is all wrong. – ScottS Dec 22 '15 at 22:42
  • Thank you very much for your answer @ScottS. I thought somehow in a similar way, but I also thought that there might be some more practical examples within the Bible. My ultimate goal is to learn to put into practice :) – Albert Vonpupp Jan 15 '16 at 0:57
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Using engineering principles, we have either

  • sequential logic and bayesian events

    • in a sequence of dependencies or events:
      When A, then B, then C, then D, ...., then Y, then Z.
      Such that when Z happens, it is presumed A thro Y had already happened.
  • parallel events but collective dependencies

    • in multithreaded, events/requirements A thro Z, happen in parallel, but the final justification requires all of them to have happened.
  • parallel and independent events without any mutual dependencies.

    • Events/requirements A thro Z happens regardless of each other.

I think people need to analyse the meaning of the word [δικαίω-θεντες], rather than accepting the English word by blind-faith from the translators.

[δικαίω]in its various declensions is found across the Christian epistles.

[δικαίω] in its various declensions means

  • make right, to punish, chastise
  • correct/make right by act or by consent or by judgement
  • to give someone justice

[δικαίωθεντες] is found only in three places and two occurrences in Romans 5, and the other in Titus. [δικαιούςθαι] in Romans 3:28

I think that ... [θεντες] = plural of [θεν] which is a suffix to mean setting or putting in place.

I want to say that [δικαίωθεν] or [δικαίωθεντες] would imply the final-judgment.

All the [δικαίω] occurrences in the Christian epistles are not the same as [δικαίωθεν], but all of them translated as "justified".

Therefore, in Romans 5:1, 9 - would mean at the ultimate justification/judgment.

Which means the "justified" of Romans 3:28, 5:1 & 9 is not the same "justified" as the other occurrences of "justified" found in the Christian epistles.

While James say, your being judged justly and rightly has sequential or collective dependence of your chain of actions, the "justified by faith alone" sola fide of Paul, is the final-rung in the sequential-chain or parallel-threads of events.

Is it because of the (mis)understanding of these two modes of the word, that the protestant churches are in disagreement with the Orthodox and Catholic churches. Whilst the protestant churches are dependent on the inadequately translated German bibles and the miserable KJV, the Orthodox and Catholic theologians have a more intimate understanding of the various occurrences of [δικαίω].

I do not think my understanding of the various forms of [δικαίω] and [δικαίωθεν] are accurate - simply that I am of the persuasion that ya'll Christians need to seriously indulge in a further understanding of the differences of these two forms, before jumping into the Martin Luther conclusion.

Therefore when it comes to the basis of the Greek text, Martin Luther's sola fide may have a rather poor foundation, aliasing two different concepts, and selling them as the same thing. (aliasing = signal engineering term for confusing two different signals as the same, by having them share the same silhouette or footprint).

I don't think I am answering your question completely which asks for specific "deeds" in the sequential chain or collective actions for James-mode justification. However, I am pointing out that James-mode and Paul-mode justification are not the same, grammatically and synthetically.

Also, you have to pay attention to the differences between sola fide's totally independent "justification" vs the sequential and/or collective dependencies proffered by the differentiating James-mode and Paul-mode justification.

I had to bring in Paul-mode justification, because it is inescapable having to discuss sola fide, when discussing Christian justification theology.

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    Sorry, I downvoted you because everything you said didn't actually answer his question and comes across as more of a rant against the KJV. :( – Bʀɪᴀɴ Dec 29 '15 at 15:12
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    Sorry for having offended your attachment to the KJV. – Cynthia Avishegnath Dec 29 '15 at 15:43
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    I have no special attachment to the KJV. – Bʀɪᴀɴ Dec 29 '15 at 16:19
  • I debated on whether or not to upvote this. +1 for the observation that there are distinct types of justification. +1 for the observation that the KJV translated this terribly and that it has really confused some people -1 that you think Protestants depend on the KJV (Most I know head for the NIV, though I prefer the NET and NASB with the exception of the Archaeology Study Bible) and -1 for not including a single link - at a minimum to the lexicon. In the end I UVd this answer because, KJV is terrible for day-to-day use and is really only of value for historical reasons. – James Shewey Dec 29 '15 at 22:01
  • Our language has changed over 400 years and it is right our translation should change too. No one understands Shakespeare anymore. Our Bibles should not become equally irrelevant. But most of all, I +1 this answer in the end because it had some merits besides the statement on the KJV and just because you have an ax to grind isn't a good reason to DV anyone who says they dislike the KJV as an aside regardless of the other content. It definitely did not deserved to be flagged as very low quality for deletion - that's just unfair. It could still use some editing and support though. – James Shewey Dec 29 '15 at 22:06

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