In James 2:14-26, we find an illustration which to a religious Jew would have seemed implausible. The faith of Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel, is compared to the faith of Rahab, a professional prostitute. The behaviors as a result of their faiths were outrageous in that Abe put his son Isaac on the chopping block and Rahab endangered the lives of her family. This was not cheap head nodding faith, but faith that carried grave consequences. And yet they chose to believe despite no fanfare or support. In fact, if Abraham’s wife had known what was afoot, she probably would have sounded all the alarm bells in order to stop him.
What was Abraham thinking when he went up that mount with his son Isaac, a knife at his side, and knowing that God was requesting what would seem a catastrophic loss? What was Rahab thinking as day after day the Israelites circled her home city of Jericho, knowing that she had betrayed her countrymen who would not think twice about wiping out her family if they discovered her disloyalty? The faith of Abe and Rahab was not based on pleasant feel-good emotions. This was bold obedience which held firm despite great opposition. Disregarding their fears, Abraham walked up the mountain, knife in hand, and Rahab aided the Israelite spies in their escape.
What would have happened if both decided that they liked the idea of God but that obeying Him was inconvenient? Abe had waited over 99 years for the birth of his beloved son Isaac and he could have decided that he loved his son more than God. Who could have faulted Rahab if she had decided that playing the safer odds would keep her family secure?
In both cases, their actions demonstrated where their hearts resided. That is the simplistic beauty in this chapter of James. What matters to God is the question: Are you going to believe Him today and act on it? Are you going to take Him at His Word, despite your circumstances and emotions?
The bottom line of genuine faith is your actions. That’s why James says, “Faith without works is dead.” You can’t have true living faith without true living behavior that illustrates that faith. It doesn’t matter what’s your heritage or where you came from. It is the intersection of behavior and faith that clearly demonstrates if one’s relationship with God is the real deal. That’s how we know where both Abe and Rahab’s hearts stood before God.
How does heaven view this intersection of faith and works in your own life? Is it time to choose the faith that obeys? With such faith, you may not have to climb a mountain with a knife in hand or to hide a group of spies, but your name will be written in heaven’s book, right along with Abe and Rahab.