So, what is the relationship between faith and works? How do the two interact, how do they relate, what place does each of them have? We have Paul in Ephesians 2 say "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." And then we have James saying (2:24) "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone."
What do we make of these? Well, the context in Ephesians is the priority of faith - that we are dead and unable to do works until we come to faith and are given life - a life in which works will be done. Works are not the cause of Christian life, they are the result. The context of James - "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says that he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?" The Italics were mine.
What is the problem that James is addressing? You see, he is not speaking in a vaccuum - but rather he is addressing those who claim faith but who show no care, do not care for their neighbor, treat others with contempt. He is claiming that their "faith" which does not show love to the neighbor, which doesn't result in love, is in fact not faith at all. That faith alone saves no one - and if there are no works, you will not be justified.
Works are not the cause of faith - but they are the way in which we as Christians can diagnose our faith. If we see no works, no love, no charity - our faith is in shoddy shape. A Christian must do good works - not in terms of "law" per se, but that it simply happens. Good works are like breathing - for a person to be alive, he must be breathing. If he's not breathing. . . as Bones would say, "He's dead, Jim."
You were dead in trespasses, as Paul says, but have been made alive in Christ. Check your pulse as a Christian. See if you are still breathing - listen to your lungs. Look at your works. Are you showing love gladly or not? If not, repent and receive forgiveness. Is there any way in which you fall short? Of course - so find it, repent of it, beat it down, lest it become a cancer which devours you!
Our Lord says that He is the vine and that we are the branches - that whoever abides in Him WILL bear much fruit. Is your fruit weak, flaccid, dried out? Repent, return to the branch, and let Christ flow through you again!