My parents were married one year when my dad’s mother fell ill and came to live with our family. “Gran” had diabetes and was too weak to walk. Because we lived on an upper floor of an apartment building with no elevator, my father carried her up and down the stairs. Mom prepared special meals for her, bathed her, cut her nails and gave her regular insulin injections.

Gran had never been the easiest woman, but now she became unpredictable and caring for her was a real challenge. I was too young to remember her, but mom often spoke of the way God helped her to love her mother-in-law. In time, with much prayer, a good diet, and special care, Gran grew stronger and was eventually able to walk again.

My mom believed what James taught, that “faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless” (James 2:17). It’s our actions that make our faith evident (James 2:21-26). What are these actions produced by faith? They’re not giving special attention to the rich and well-connected at the expense of the poor and marginalized (James 2:1-5,8-13). Instead, they’re showing mercy (James 2:13) and meeting others’ needs as we’re able (James 2:14-17).

When we focus on faith to the exclusion of practical care, we become irrelevant. In the same way, however, emphasizing good behavior alone denies our total dependence on God’s grace. It’s because we’re saved by God’s grace alone (Ephesians 2:8) that true believers will reflect faith and loving action (James 2:24).

We might wish to happily coast through this life, merely looking forward to the day when we’re with Jesus. But God wants us to put our faith into action. He intends to accomplish beautiful things on this earth by working in and through us.

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Matthew 9:27-38