We have been going through this awesome curriculum for a while now and just recently have finished the books of Galatians and Romans. We are now just beginning the book of James. Anyway, what is really neat is that Paul and James both are so much alike in their writings. Paul believes that we are saved (justified) by faith through Christ.
But it seems that James contradicts Paul when he says that we are justified by works. You must realize that James is not speaking of the same justification as Paul was. That is the key to understanding these two men. Neither are wrong, it is just that both are coming from different points of view.
Paul is true when saying that in faith alone (sola fide) are we justified. James agrees to that but puts in another aspect of our salvation. He says that without works, faith is dead. He knows that although you believe in Christ through faith, it is only dead faith without the works to justify it. So James is telling the truth in saying that we are justified through our works because without works we have no true faith in us at all.
In closing, we have believed and now are living out the Salvation given to us. If we are of the true faith then we must display that faith through our works. We cannot say, "Lord, save me" and then sit around just waiting for Christ to return. No, we are justified by our works.