We must love God in order to be saved. It is inconceivable that those who are utterly indifferent towards Him or who genuinely hate Him will meet with His favor on Judgment Day. But in order to love God, we must know Him. The better we know Him, the better we will be able to love Him. Likewise, the better we love Him the better we shall know Him. Knowledge and love of God reinforce and strengthen each other.
In Jeremiah 22:15-16, God tells us one element of what it means to know Him. Addressing Jehoiakim king of Judah through the prophet Jeremiah, He says this about Jehoiakim’s love for the external trappings of royalty (his “passion for cedar” to build a palace for himself) as compared to his father Josiah’s example:
Are you more of a king because of your passion for cedar? Did your father go hungry or thirsty? But he did what is just and upright, so all went well for him. He used to examine the cases of poor and needy, then all went well. Is not that what it means to know me? Yahweh demands. (NJB; emphasis added)
One thing which shows that we know God is our concern for justice for the poor—for the common good, not just for the wealthy. The inference we are forced to draw from what God says here is that if we neglect the poor and needy, if their claims for justice are not met, then we do not know God. But if we do not know Him we cannot possibly love Him. And if we do not love Him it is absurd to pretend that we are justified before Him.
In short: this brief passage from Jeremiah betrays once again that the Protestant’s notion of sola fide is false. What we do in this life does matter. We cannot pretend to have faith in a God we do not even know, and we are told that we don’t know Him if we do not behave in certain ways (in this case—and likewise in the Epistle of St. James, by the way—by caring for and giving justice to the poor). How then is it possible for the Protestant’s justification by faith alone to be correct? I do not see how. To the contrary: we must have faith and we must show that we know and love Him by what we do.