What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day,and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
In a dance the follower does great deal of work. However, she does not go into the dance looking to do as much work as she can. She goes into the dance looking to be as faithful to the lead as possible. All of the works she does in the dance are the fruit of her faithfulness.
But every so often I dance with a lady who has no idea there is a lead. A great example of this was when I was at a church dance, and I was dancing with a woman who had the worst case of noodle arms ever. She was connected with my hand, but she did whatever she felt like. Nothing I led got through to her.
This was frustrating enough, but to top it off she kept telling me over and over again what a great dancer I was. There was no way she could know if I was a great dancer or not, because she was following absolutely nothing! It was a terrible dance.
This is what it means to say faith without works is dead. The fact that we say Jesus is Lord means nothing if we don’t follow the lead, which leads to the work of the pattern. The works we do are the fruit of the faith we have in Christ. This is why Jesus says “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,* but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.(Matthew 7:21)
This woman just stayed in one place, but also dancing vigorously next to the leader without any connection also does not create a relationship. In the same way, doing works outside of God’s lead does not lead us to relationship. All of this frustrates the leader.
The response to grace is faith, following the lead of Christ and being true to the Spirit. Works are not a means to a salvation; they are the sign of salvation. That is our faithfulness produces works. One cannot see faith unless there is some work, some evidence of it in a person’s life. Since the body makes visible what is invisible, the spirit, so too do works make visible what is invisible, faith. Faith is of the spirit and work is of the body, and just as the body and the spirit were meant to be create integrated whole, so too are the faith and works, two sides of one coin.
This does not mean that when we fail to follow God’s lead it goes to waste. If I am dancing with a beginner who struggles to follow what I lead, but she tries, then I am happy. She understands there is a lead, she is trying to figure it out, and I drop hints. Some followers want to get the basic footwork right, while others want to follow the connection. Both are good choices, and I will change up my lead to accommodate whichever choice they make. In both cases I take all the mistakes they make (which often are quite a few) and I weave them into the pattern as if they were meant to be there. Then I lead them through patterns they thought they could never do.
This is how God leads us, tailoring his lead to the holy desires within is, an allowing us to do things we never thought we could otherwise. If we try to be faithful, then even if we fail God will have joy in us and our dance.
A Christian should always remember that the value of his good works is not based on their number and excellence, but on the love of God which prompts him to do these things:
St.. John of the Cross