For context sake, don’t view this as a separate passage from yesterday. Remember, James has just told them how they need to treat everyone equally. Right after that, James dives into todays passage by pointing out that good works (like treating everyone with dignity) reflect vibrant faith. In First John we saw that sin is incongruous with fellowship with God. Here we see the flip side; faith is always congruous with vibrant service and obedience. James reminds us that talk is cheap by pointing out that bidding someone to keep warm is pretty easy and worthless compared to giving them a coat. James even gets sarcastic in verse 18 when he essentially says: “You think your perfect theology will save you? Great.. but remember that the demons have pretty great theology too.”
The summary of James whole point is in verse 26. James doesn’t say we earn salvation by works, he simply says “faith without works is dead”. There’s no argument in this, we all know it to be true. That’s why it’s so neat to see a church full of servants. It’s cool to see our deacons deliver meals, our students raking leaves for our elderly, our Sunday School teachers serving our children and Project Linus tying blankets. These are all things to celebrate. That said, I have never been so convinced in my life that there is much more to do. One need only walk into one of Joliet’s high schools, a grocery store or the next cubicle over to find an enormous mission field. It seems daunting, but it really isn’t. After all, we have an entire church full of faith ready to be proven by good works, right?