Student’s Name



Role of African American Churches in Promoting Public Health


14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 20But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 

 (James 2: 14-22)

James’ logical argument is faith is the underlying basis of Christian life, but deeds are the way of life. The author does not believe faith is at odds with work or service. Therefore, people have the opportunity to serve the needs of people around them. Good deeds are both a component and an attribute of genuine faith. Lastly, believers have faith to gain salvation but judgment focuses on a person’s good works on earth.

Theme: Faith without action is dead

Literary Context of the Text

James’ epistle should be perceived as a form of logical argument meant to promote action over faith in Christianity. The argument can be understood using two rhetorical questions regarding faith without deeds. The first inquiry is how good is it? The second question is, can faith without action result in salvation? The first question suggests a degree of uselessness associated with faith without action. On the other hand, the second inquiry implies a general lack of a desired outcome, which to Christians is salvation. The primary point of having faith in Jesus is to attain salvation upon one’s demise. Therefore, the lack of it is a serious consequence. As James highlights, faith without action puts at stake a person’s salvation. There is no good in the Christian who spreads faith to the needy but offers no material help. Unlike the gospels, the scripture in James is presented as an argument instead of instruction.

While James’ illustration is hypothetical, it is quite realistic and complete. The disciple specifies ‘brother’ and ‘sister,’ which are close affiliations. However, Christianity considers a brother and a sister to be anyone who is in need. Therefore, the hypothesis envisions kind actions towards the welfare of real individuals. The phrases ‘go in peace’ ‘be filled’ and ‘be warmed’ as passive. The unreceptive phrases facilitate a reflection on the absurdity of the Christian or the Church, leaving the needy with only faith concerning the expectation that God will provide. The rhetoric suits James’ argument against faith that lacks action. The context provides a complete picture of the interdependence between deeds and faith. Perhaps James presents the argument as a hypothesis because he anticipated rejection of the doctrine by the early Church. The last sentences in the verse highlight that James is not focusing on faith but rather faith by itself. The disciple is teaching the true nature of the Christian faith and its manifestation.

James Chapter 2 talks about man’s obligation towards his fellow human beings with the concept of faith without action working within this broader context. According to the epistle, man is not supposed to show any form of favouritism, as stated in Chapter two, verse five. Jesus informed that God chooses the poor in the eyes of man because they are rich in faith. However, it is the man who exploits and dishonours the poor. The literary context informs that faith with action is meant to serve the less fortunate in society and not the rich. James repeatedly shows that action is not added to faith. Instead, action is an attribute of genuine faith. He affirms the necessity of deeds being strategic to benefit those in need. While the concept of faith without action stands alone, it fits within the wider context of man’s responsibility for his neighbour’s welfare. The principle also reflects the Church’s role and obligation towards the betterment of surrounding communities.

Textual Analysis

Unit One

{There is no good in a person who claims to have faith but shows no genuine action to help others}

Unit Two

{Leaving the poor with words of courage or affirmation does little to serve their immediate needs or promote their attainment of salvation}

Unit Three

{Faith without action cannot lead to salvation even for the believer}

Unit Four

{You can show your faith by talking about it or acting on it}

Discussion of the Text

Key Thoughts

  1. Unit one highlights a person cannot claim to be a Christian if he or she does not engage in works of charity
  2. Societal impact does not come through verbal words of encouragement but through material assistance for the less fortunate, as unit two informs.
  3. Unit 4 educates that the only way for a Christian to attain salvation is by practicing the word of God through action.

Expository Idea One: Charity (James 2:14)

Expository Idea Two: Salvation (James 2:16)

Expository Idea Three: Deeds (James 2:18)

            The idea of deeds is most relevant to my thesis. According to the proposed report, African American churches should model and promote physical and mental health policies and best practices in addition to virtues and spirituality. The overall project is related to the Black Church’s role in promoting public health. Therefore, it is essential to interpret the doctrinal interpretation of deeds. James constantly refers to deeds as physical activities undertaken because of a person’s belief, which confirms or illustrates faith. It is the genuine nature of the Christian faith to express itself through works. Deeds, as part of helping others, are an act of obedience to God’s instructions. Works act as the basis for a person to stand as righteous in the eyes of God. Therefore, deeds are part of the redemptive process a Christian goes through to attain salvation. God assesses how obedient a man is to the scriptures, which includes the doctrine of man’s love for his neighbour and his obligation towards improving their wellbeing.

The concept of deeds implies a practical or material aspect of helping others. In verse fifteen, James inquires if words can satisfy the needs of a person without clothing or a daily meal. James’ illustration calls for the provision of material assistance to the less fortunate. A life of faith demands action as part of a religious ritual and also obedience to Christ’s command of love for one another[1]. The royal law gives the conviction that Christians are responsible for each other’s welfare. Therefore, deeds refer to the provision of material assistance to whoever needs it. Believers should not talk about good wishes without performing the necessary actions meant to facilitate their achievement. The rest of the passage provides a practical application concerning the principle of trust in God. Abraham became righteous because of his blind trust in God. Christians should embody the same principle while working to benefit others.

Key Thought of the Whole Text

            James is not talking about faith and needs distinctively but faith without deeds collectively. Foremost, the disciple teaches that such a version of a belief system has no positive outcomes. The term is found to have no meaning, use, or benefit. A believer who does not practice genuine faith is practically risking his or her salvation. The second lesson is such faith does not act as a pathway to spiritual salvation. Any believer that practices faith without action will not achieve deliverance and admission into the kingdom of God. Good works is what provides an opportunity for a believer to work and build on their faith, hence acting as the pathway to salvation.

The last lesson is faith that lacks action is dead. Faith without goof works does not advance a person’s righteousness because it does not feed the soul. When a person reflects on the passage severally, there is the emerging perception that James could be talking about faith that is not genuine alone. Even if a person talks and shows a Christian way of life, not acting on faith means the individual is faking his or her beliefs. Active engagement creates the opportunity for Christians to test their faith and commitment to it. Therefore, a person who does not do good works is unfamiliar with the limits of their conviction. Another interpretation could be the believer does not understand what true belief entails, hence their ignorance of the poor. Unfamiliarity provides more reason why believers should be active agents of behavioural changes in society.

Exposition of the Text

            James informs that the love and belief in Jesus Christ should establish the innate desire and compassion for helping people in need. According to the disciple, people have opportunities to impact the lives of others by working for and among them[2]. The opportunity can be simple, such as helping a confused client locate an item within a supermarket. The assistance can also be big, such as paying the school fees of the child of an impoverished mother. James urges the Christian Church to have a special concern for marginalized individuals. A righteous Christian practices how to identify vulnerable people and discern their needs. The obligation is at the core of the theme of faith without action is dead. James does not urge people to work towards the benefit of others, but for individualized spiritual nourishment. Having faith in Christ drives the Church to work towards societal benefit and not the other way around

Chapter 2 shows there is redemption for the man who employs deeds to exemplify his faith. The death of Jesus Christ provided Christians with a way to seek salvation. James educates that action is part of the route to righteousness. For instance, the apostle cites the example of Abraham. The ancestor had no tangible benefits from his faith in God until he showed the willingness to sacrifice his son[3]. Abraham did not reap spiritual benefits from his faith alone. The leader needed to perform the sacrifice to fulfil his life’s purpose. The message is subtle and easy to overlook. Abraham is considered righteous because of the extent he was willing to go for his faith[4].  The passage teaches the Church and believers that it was not until Abraham did good work that his faith was validated. An individual does not have to know all the scriptures to gain salvation. Instead, he should do good work as a function of building their faith.

The passage shapes Christian life by illustrating one cannot separate faith from practical action regardless of the environment. Placing faith in Jesus Christ results in practical deeds[5]. Therefore, a believer cannot divide the spiritual from the earthy based on the environment. For instance, one cannot say I go to church, fellowship, and believe in Jesus Christ. However, I keep my faith separate from my profession. According to James, such a belief system is dead and does not justify a person’s faith. The chapter challenges the Church and the believer to work out their commitment to the scripture in their daily activities. Innate and external factors that base a person’s worldview should not affect their faith at any single point. Christians today fail to achieve this feat perfectly. Social media influences permeate modern worldviews, which affect people’s commitment to their faith.

James provides a different context for Christian judgment. The life and death of Jesus Christ created a way for man to seek and secure salvation. However, a common theme is faith without deeds cannot save a person. Within this context, the term ‘save’ does not refer to spiritual fulfilment but earthly forms of material satisfaction[6]. Therefore, God perceives righteousness as action-based and not purely faith-based. The faith in Jesus Christ saves the Christian believer from the penalty of sin. However, God judges them per their actions. The preacher who constantly urges his flock to engage in community charity but does not take the initiative to establish internal aid programs fails to exemplify righteousness. The mother who informs her children about the importance of praying before eating but does not pray herself equally fails to exemplify righteousness. People tend to believe they will be judged per their sins, but James shows deeds could be a significant factor in spiritual judgment.

Application of the Text

Alignment of the Thesis and the Passage

            The overall project seeks to determine the role of the African American Church in promoting public health. The research hypothesizes that Black community churches should design models that promote mental and physical health. The report has to first establish the degree the Church is engaged in community affairs to fully discern its role. James mandates a reflection on the extent Black churches are engaged in social concerns. Over the years, the Catholic and Protestant communities have been some of the largest private funders in the fight against poverty, unemployment, low-levels of education, housing and gender-based violence. However, Davidson and his co-authors inform that engagement is significant mostly at the regional and national levels[7]. The religious traditions of local congregations do little to promote genuine faith. The congregation is too rooted on local factors, such as friends, family and neighbourhood to consider wider social issues.

Churches are meant to represent some form of public service to surrounding communities, which is a function lacking in many of the local religious institutions. Common is for church leadership to provide the various services that benefit a community, such as free meals, free legal and medical clinics and education seminars. Church leaders are documented to have substantial impact on the lives of their congregation. However, the thesis concerns itself with the congregation having positive impacts on surrounding communities. The objective is to employ James’ passage to inspire individual-level commitment in local social issues. The fragmentation of Christian works to the personal level promises greater societal benefit compared to the conventional works of church leadership. The problem with African American churches is that congregants have too much faith in the religious institutions as opposed to each other. Engaging in good works is an excellent way of transforming this misperception while creating ways for believers to build each other’s faith.

Significance of the Passage to the Thesis

            Numerous scientific studies highlight of health disparities suffered by the African American community that are not present to the general population. While some studies pinpoint institutionalized and systemic discrimination, some reports argues there is a lack of culturally sensitive interventions for the population[8]. Blacks enjoy less success in accessing public health services. Moreover, the community is six times more likely to suffer from chronic ailments, such as diabetes and hypertension. The Black populace is difficult to reach due to language and cultural barriers. In addition, the community is less involved in service management, which lowers the ability of health service providers to initiate effective forms of engagement[9]. Therefore, community growth and development, including public health for the African American population needs to stem from inside. Blacks have the biggest potential to design cultural sensitive interventions and James’ passage inspires congregants to take up the individual obligation.

The passage plays a critical role in reducing the over-reliance on church leaders and the church for community interventions. Mentioned in the report is how church leaders are perceived as integral members of the community due to their impact on community health behaviours. The leaders engage in behavioural transformation for troubled youth and even criminals. However, their impact on more problematic social issues, such as alcohol and tobacco use is neglected scientifically. By using James’ passage to transform congregants into active spiritual leaders, the Black community benefits from a higher number of social agents. Congregants can influence each other’s health behaviours on the individual, cultural and environmental levels. They will exert more influence through low-level mediators, such as close monitoring. James informs the thesis should center on believers affecting every facet of community life as opposed to the church or spiritual leaders.


James takes a strong stand when expounding the true nature of Christian faith and its relation to good works. The apostle demonstrates dead faith is devoid of action while living faith is full of actionable obedience to God’s commands. People practice faith to gain salvation. James highlights that faith without deeds does not lead to spiritual salvation. The undesired outcome stems from the assertion that God judges people as per their actions on earth. Therefore, a person that does not perform good deeds does not justify his faith, meaning he is not saved. Christians have an obligation towards the welfare of their neighbour, underpinning the practical basis of faith. Good works is the only way to righteousness. James is not urging Christians to work for the benefit of others but because of the faith placed in God. Charity nourishes the spirit and increases a person’s commitment to their beliefs.

Theological Perspective

Thesis Statement: African American churches should model and promote physical and mental health policies and best practices in addition to virtues and spirituality.

            Too often do we see churches engage in community works, especially concerning the care of vulnerable children and the elderly. The Christian Church continues to be an emblem of hope and salvation even in the material sense. Believers do acknowledge that God commands that we take care of one another as a manifestation of love. The need to love each other as we love ourselves is the primary principle used to explain why Christians work towards the benefit of others. I knew little that there is another reason why believers should do good deeds. Works tests and reinforces faith by providing opportunities to struggle with service to others.

            The believer’s position in the community is established through action and not dominion. A believer does not achieve salvation by faith or works, but by combining the two. Throughout the Pauline letters, the apostle uses faith alone as the basis for human salvation. James hypothesizes faith with deeds. An error that Christians make is believing that the weekly fellowship and church meets are sufficient illustrators of faith. Some believers accept that fellowship alone will lead to salvation, which is spiritually risky.

As aforementioned, Abraham began being termed as righteous when he obeyed God to the point of sacrificing his first son. Both Paul and James agree that works are an attribute of genuine faith. Therefore, the bare minimum trips to Church do not meet the apostle’s criteria for faith-based works. People become saved to do good in the world. The question that looms for believers is how a person can achieve salvation when they only practice their faith on weekends. The inquiry inspires increased commitment to good works and the Church. The objective is for a Christian to develop a reputation of service regardless of their position in the human socioeconomic scale.

Church leadership should reduce the over-reliance on the formal classroom approach in developing community leader to more collaborative and immersive experiences. James educates on why the Church should do away with any processes or excuses that limit the preparation of young people in community leadership. The call to do good work and its relation to salvation denotes that it is never late for a believer to establish the right foundation for community involvement and spiritual leadership. African American churches should leverage worshipers to serve in diverse capacities of the church and the local community. The responsibility will guide the next generation into active public health agents who cause positive transformations through their ministry.

The problem with some of the congregants is they depend on external sources or factors to base and inspire their commitment to service. James Chapter 2 provides a theological basis for the thesis to inspire willingness for readers to accept social roles that impact their respective communities. The Black populace needs to start looking from within to enhance their public health instead of waiting on interventions from the government or spiritual leaders. What this means for the Church is the use of younger generations to spread the ministry in the same way as in the Early Church. If leadership is planning an education drive for orphaned children, let young believers be part of the planning and execution. Leadership should always be seeking new and innovative ways of integrating the youth in ministry and community development.

I come from a background where religious institutions focused more on individual-level behaviours instead of mediating local level factors. The feeling or perception one gets nowadays is reversed. The concept of dead faith emerges when contemplating the role of the church in influencing health behaviours. Faith makes congregates more receptive to instructions, which has an impact on individual conduct. Active engagement turns the typical worshipper into a spiritual role model, social influencer and source of social support. The interactions between such individuals exert pressure on the community culture, promoting positive behaviours while negating bad ones.

With the presence of modern technology and information, active engagement can model the typical believer into a committed, creative and innovative problem-solver of community issues. The faithful congregant employs scriptural influences as mediators for people to avoid health risks, such as promiscuity, drugs and alcohol abuse. Analogies from James’ passage give believers the authority to intervene in each other’s lives for positive social reinforcement. The faith-based approach to improving the role of the African American church will facilitate the development of cultural sensitive interventions. The times are getting tougher and the Christian Church has a lot of works to perform to insulate the society from adverse health outcomes.


Baham, Marl. ‘Understanding the Apostle James and his Thoughts on Christian Works,’ An Examination of the Complementary Facets of Systematic Theology, (2020): 1-17.

Davidson, James, Ronald Elly, Thomas Hull and Donald Nead. ‘Increasing Church Involvement in Social Concerns: A Model for urban Ministries’, Review of Religious Research, vol. 20, no. 3 (1979): 291-314.

Heward-Mills, Lante. ‘The Role of Faith Leaders in Influencing Health Behaviour: A Qualitative Exploration on the Views of Black African Christians in Leeds, United Kingdom.” The Pan African Medical Journal, vol. 30, no. 199, (2018), doi:10.11604/pamj.2018.30.199.15656

Liftin, Duane. Word versus Deed: Resetting the Scales to a Biblical Balance. Crossway, 2012.

Reid, Stanford. “Justification by Faith According To John Calvin.” Westminster
Theological Journal, vol. 42, no. 2 (1980): 290-307.

[1] Duane Liftin. Word versus Deed: Resettling the Scales to a Biblical Balance. (Crossway, 2012), p.198.

[2]Baham, Marl. ‘Understanding the Apostle James and his Thoughts on Christian Works’, An Examination of the Complementary Facets of Systematic Theology, (2020): 5.

[3] Stanford Reid, W. “Justification by Faith According To John Calvin.” Westminster Theological Journal, vol. 42, no. 2 (1980): 305

[4] Ibid

[5]Duane Liftin. Word versus Deed: Resettling the Scales to a Biblical Balance. (Crossway, 2012), p.198.

[6]Stanford Reid, W. “Justification by Faith According To John Calvin.” Westminster Theological Journal, vol. 42, no. 2 (1980): 307.

[7] James Davidson, Ronald Elly, Thomas Hull and Donald Nead. ‘Increasing Church Involvement in Social Concerns: A Model for urban Ministries’, Review of Religious Research, vol. 20, no. 3 (1979): 291.

[8]Lante Heward-Mills. ‘The Role of Faith Leaders in Influencing Health Behaviour: A Qualitative Exploration on the Views of Black African Christians in Leeds, United Kingdom.” The Pan African Medical Journal, vol. 30, no. 199, (2018),


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