Use one or both of these questions to introduce the lesson:
1. Imagine that you were going to visit Yellowstone National Park. What distinguishes Old Faithful from the many other geysers in the park? Why do you think Old Faithful is one of the park’s most popular tourist attractions? What might make it lose its popularity?
2. List three or four occupations that most people consider trustworthy. List three or four occupations that most people consider untrustworthy. Why do people put their faith in some professions but not in others? Do you think most people consider the church to be trustworthy or untrustworthy? Explain your response.
Read James 2:14-16.
1. Look at the questions in verse 14. They are rhetorical questions, questions for which the answers are meant to be obvious. What are the obvious answers? Is James implying that we can earn salvation by doing good deeds? Why or why not?
2. Some might be tempted to say that merely confessing our faith in God is a righteous act. How does changing the focus from a person’s pledge of faithfulness to God to a person’s faithful friendship to another person refocus the argument (vv. 15, 16)? Why might some feel that they owe less faithfulness to God than they owe to a friend?
Read James 2:17-19.
3. It’s not hard to imagine that a believer today may say something like the statement in verse 18a. “I’m on the prayer team and someone else can serve on the work detail. I attend services every week but someone else can tithe.” What is wrong with this reasoning?
4. Confessing that there is one God was a key part of Old Testament worship (see Deuteronomy 6:4). What did James mean by implying that even demons could recite a Jewish call to worship?
Read James 2:20-26.
5. James gives two case studies about how faith and deeds are both necessary. Compare James 2:20-24; Genesis 22:1-18; and Hebrews 11:17-19. How does this case show the necessity of faith and action?
6. The second case study involves one of the most unlikely heroines of the Bible. Compare James 2:25; Joshua 2; and Hebrews 11:31. Note especially how Rahab’s faith with right action yielded different results from her countrymen’s faith without right actions (Joshua 2:8-11).
7. Zombies, monsters with human bodies but no human spirit, are popular subjects of modern fiction lately. Paraphrase James 2:26 to use the word zombie to express its meaning. How can we convince the watching world that the church is trustworthy and not just a gathering place for the walking dead?