I remember a controversy years ago sparked by the notion that the apostle Paul and James, who wrote the Book of James, disagreed on the issue of faith and works. The controversy went something like this: Paul taught salvation by faith alone and James taught that faith without works is dead.
To understand the connection between faith and works, the verses must be put in context. Actually, Paul agreed with James that faith without works is dead. He simply worded it differently. “For you are saved by grace through faith. And this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God: it is not from works, so that not anyone could boast. For we are His workmanship, as we have been created in Messiah Y’shua [Christ Jesus] for good works, which God prepared beforehand, so that we would walk in them, the good works” (Ephesians 2: 8-10, One New Man Bible).
The Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22) and good works go hand and hand. They are the by-products of a circumcised heart. What kind of good works? Scripture is very specific. In Acts 4: 32-35, we see the new believers sharing and helping the needy among them (Acts 4: 32-35). Likewise, in I Corinthians 16: 1-4, Paul asks for an offering to help the believers in Jerusalem. Helping fellow Jew and Gentile believers in the Messiah is a priority in local congregations and beyond.
Consistently, throughout the Bible, God commands us to help the poor, the needy, orphans, widows, and the oppressed. Consider the following verses:
See that justice is done–help those who are oppressed, give orphans their rights, and defend widows (Isaiah 1: 17, GNT).
Stop taking advantage of aliens, orphans, and widows (Jeremiah 7: 6a, GNT).
Defend the rights of the poor and the orphans; be fair to the needy and the helpless (Psalm 82: 3, GNT).
Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge (Deuteronomy 24: 17). When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow (Deuteronomy 24: 20, NIV).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said to give to the needy but give without fanfare. “When you give to the needy, do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what you do in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6: 3-4, NIV).
Opportunities to do good works are limitless. Many churches have a benevolence fund to help people within the congregation. Some churches are set up to provide food and/or clothes to the needy in local communities.
On a international scale, organizations like Compassion International provide children and orphans with food, clothing, and other necessities while sharing the gospel. You can sponsor a child or send aid for disaster relief through Compassion. Orphan Voice, another Christian-based organization, provides care for orphans at risk in Asia.
When Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan, He taught us not only how to help our neighbor but who our neighbor is (Luke 10: 25-37).
By putting feet to our faith, we become ambassadors for Christ and demonstrate the Gospel.