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James 2:15

ESV If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,
NIV Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.
NASB If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,
CSB If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food
NLT Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing,
KJV If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,

What does James 2:15 mean?

James began this controversial section, in verse 14, by asking a potent question: Can a claimed faith in Christ, which does not lead to good works, be the kind of faith that leads to salvation? The question is very narrow: James specifies that he is only questioning the "faith" he just defined: that which produces no good works. As these next verses will show, James's answer to that question is, "No, it does not."

The point is not that faith is not enough to save us. The verses which follow will flesh out the point James is attempting to make. In short: that the same faith which grants us salvation is the same faith which produces good works. "Faith" which is only mental agreement is not saving faith.

Here in verse 15, James begins to paint a picture to illustrate his point: a fellow believer in Christ who lacks enough clothing or food. This would have been an easy thing for James' readers to imagine. They saw people like that on a regular basis. Bitter poverty was rampant among the poorest of the poor in that era. It's not a hard thing for us to picture, either, though we may not have met anyone in such dire circumstances in person.

But suppose we did. James will ask us to consider what we might think about such a person, and what we might do about their condition. In verse 16, James will make the point that what a person does is the result of what they truly believe. In other words, a claimed "belief," or "faith," which produces no corresponding actions is pointless and dead.
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