“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?”
James, throughout the book of James, sets forth a chain of tests whereby we can evaluate how genuine our faith truly is. In this new section (2:14-26), he shows how genuine faith truly works in an individual’s life.
James 2:14-20 presents three characteristics of a dead faith: 1) it has a hallow profession (2:14), 2) it has phony compassion (2:15-17), and 3) it has a superficial conviction (2:18-20).
What does it profit,
The word “profit” means advantage. There is no advantage in talking about doing something for someone if we do not carry it through. Talk is cheap. The true benefit is in helping someone in actuality.
Talk is cheap; action requires relinquishing a certain amount of personal rights.
Non-Christians cannot see our faith except for what we do. We do not impress the unbeliever with the profession of faith but with the practice of faith. A profession is too obscure to him. We impressed him with a faith that he can see. We can argue principle into infinity, but until he sees practice, he will not believe. It must be observable to him. The Christian that many non-Christians know is the religious jerk and flaky pseudo spiritual Christian that does not appeal to them.
Because faith is invisible to non-Christians, they need to see the impact Jesus Christ makes on our lives. There is no advantage to have a faith that does not work or is not operational. Fruitless faith is not operational faith. Read the great Hall of Fame chapter in Scripture (He 11) that demonstrates people who live by faith act on their faith. They mixed their faith with the principles of God’s Word, and some profit resulted.