Some people read James chapter 2 and walk away feeling afraid. James 2 is the classic “faith without works is dead“ passage. Some read James and say to themeselves, “How can I actually be a Christian if this is the way things are supposed to be?”
A bit of good news: James is writing to Christians, to those he considers brothers and sisters in the faith. He is not wasting words; his message is indeed important and heavy and the point is sharp. But here’s the thing: He is trying to drive Christians closer to Jesus, not convince them they aren’t true Christians.
Sure, it is possible to fake it, and James 2 reveals characters such as this. I don’t think, however, that revealing fakes within flock is James main purpose. That’s just not the vibe I get, and I’ve read it in the original language many times. Shouldn’t the actual introduction and opening words of the letter be allowed to tell the reader to whom it is addressed? He calls those to whom he is writing “the twelve tribes” (1:1) and “brothers and sisters” (1:2).
I think it is well known, but it is worth repeating: Christians are not made whole all at one time. James himself says it in 3:2: “We all stumble in many ways.” From day one to the end of the journey, we encounter the Word, we see our imperfect condition, and we strive to be better reflections of Jesus. The Chrstian life is full of conviction from the Holy Spirit. When we hit passages like this and feel the prick, we shouldn’t think it means we are on the outside. In fact, it most likely means he is within us doing the normal work of calling us towards new life.