“An old Scotsman operated a little rowboat where he transported passengers. One day a passenger noticed that the old man had words carved on each oar. On one was the word ‘Faith,’ and on the other, the word ‘Works.’ Curiosity led him to ask the meaning of this. The old man happily replied, ‘I’ll show you.’ He dropped one oar and pulled the other called ‘Works’ through the water. The boat just went around in circles. Then he dropped that oar and began to pull the oar called ‘Faith,’ and the little boat just went around in circles again in the opposite direction. After this demonstration, the old man picked up Faith and Works and began plying both oars together. The boat sped swiftly over the water. The old man explained, ‘You see, that is the way it is in the Christian life. Dead works without faith are useless, and faith without works is dead also, getting you nowhere. But faith and works pulling together make for safety, progress, and blessing’” (Sermon Illustrations).
The old man had it right. Faith and works are meant to work together. If one only has faith, this person’s faith cannot bring salvation (James 2:14). Ultimately, it is nothing more than a “dead faith” (2:17, 26). It makes someone’s faith no better than that of the demons (2:19). It even makes this faith useless (2:20). The Lord is making the point abundantly clear that we need both faith and works.
Works alone gain us nothing. Faith alone is useless. Salvation doesn’t come through faith alone, nor does it come through works alone. Salvation is a result of both faith and works. Let’s grow a faith that spurs us to works, and then take bold actions because of the faith within us. To make true progress towards heaven, let’s make sure we are pulling on both oars.