“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (V14)
James’ answer in this section is ‘No’. That faith can’t save a person, because that faith is not real faith. Good works are the proof of real faith.
And the example of one who has ‘faith’ without works is a striking one: a demon (V19)! The demon knows truth about God, but doesn’t respond rightly; that is not true faith.
These must have been challenging verses to James’ original readers – scattered and poor, maybe tempted just to keep their heads down and blend in with the world for an easy life – and surely they are for us too. Faith without works is dead faith; real faith is shown by works.