We've all heard it said at one point or another (and probably more often) that James' words "faith without works is dead" (James 2:20) means that faith is a work, or at least that in order for our faith to be legitimate we have to add works to it.
But James doesn't say, "if you say you have faith, then do something to prove it." Rather I believe his sentiment in his words, "Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works" (James 2:18) is simply this: Your actions simply show what is already true and alive in you. If you try to "add" works to faith, then it's not really faith through which the works are produced! It's dead works!
If you truly believe something, your actions will naturally reflect your belief. This applies to all people, regardless of any relationship with the Lord. If a burglar believes (has faith) that he can get away with burglarizing a house, his actions will justify his faith. If a man believes he can get a better job or career by going to college for four years, his actions will show his faith to be genuine. If you believe the bogeyman is under your bed, your feet won't get anywhere near the floor until the light of morning!
On the same token, doubt without works is dead as well! If a person doubts that he is worth anything to God or to other people, his actions will go right along with the doubt. If he doubts that his gas tank has enough gas to get him to the next town, he will put gas in it before driving that far. But it's not as if a person says, "I have doubt," and then he goes about trying to add doubtful actions to try to prove his doubt to be true! You don't add works to doubt in order to prove it. Again, the works (actions) simply go along naturally with what is already true. If you try to "add" works to doubt, then it's not really doubt through which the works are produced! It's dead works!
Do we really understand this?
We don't add works to faith to try to prove it. Our lives in Christ are not a matter of going about trying to prove our faith by doing good works. Our lives in Christ are based upon taking God at His word... believing Him... having faith in Him... and allowing the "works" (accompanying actions) to be worked out naturally as we rest and trust in Him.