But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
— James 1:22-25
You can find out how to fix almost anything on YouTube. When our dryer broke, my husband and son watched some YouTube videos and figured out how to take the dryer apart and replace the control board. Neither one of them had ever done anything like this, so they did not simply watch and admire the YouTube videos, they studied them closely, and then they followed each step along the way in order to successfully fix the dryer.
Likewise, James is talking about the importance of being not only a hearer of the Word, but a practical step by step follower, or “doer” of the Word. James gives us both a positive and a negative example. James describes the one who is only a hearer of the word as one who looks intently into a mirror, but then goes away and forgets what he looks like. Imagine a church goer who hears the Word of God on Sunday morning at church and even meditates and reflects on it, but then leaves the service and doesn’t apply or follow that Word during the week at home or at work. James says we are deceiving ourselves if we choose to live this way, hearing and even agreeing with the Word, but failing to follow that Word.
In Matthew chapter 7:21, Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” And in verses 24-27, Jesus says, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
Let us not only be a hearer of the word, but a doer, let us be one who mediates and looks into this perfect law, this law of liberty, not being one who hears and forgets, but being a doer who acts. And James tells us that if we persevere and follow God’s Word, we will be blessed in our doing! This law of liberty is for your freedom and blessing today! Jesus says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31).
Dear Heavenly Father, we repent of the ways we have heard Your word, Your law of liberty, and failed to act on it, or acted indifferent towards it. Please forgive us. Give us a fresh filling of Your Holy Spirit, and give us a desire to not only meditate on Your word, not only hunger for Your word, but to act on it and to live it out. And help us to share this law of liberty, this hope that we have in following God’s perfect Word, the gospel, with our communities and around the world. We ask this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Ministry Fellow, CU Vita (Cornell University)
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