Jms. 2:14-17 “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such 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.”
Faith, alone, saves. Nothing additional is needed. But the faith that saves does not remain alone; it transforms the life into one that obeys God, one that loves and blesses other people. That’s what saving faith does. If a person claims to have faith but has no love for others, no patience, no joy, no mercy that takes action to alleviate suffering and bring comfort, then that person has reason to question whether they have faith that saves.
It’s not good works James is talking about – things to impress God with which we hope to earn salvation. No, these are the deeds of the transformed life, selfless love for other people like what is described in 1 Cor. 13. These deeds flow from a life that is being transformed. Make no mistake, they come because we possess saving faith – not to earn it.