Saturday, 22 June 2019
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22
James has just spoken of “the implanted word.” It is this, as he said, “which is able to save your souls.” He now builds upon that thought. It is the word which brings one to an understanding of the gospel (Paul says this in Romans 10:17 with the words, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”). Now James continues by saying, “But be doers of the word.”
In this, he is stating that believers don’t simply hear the word and become holy. Rather, they are to act upon it. Again, it is the same thing that Paul said in Romans 12:12, 13 –
“For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified.”
In Romans, as here in James, there is the thought of applying the word to one’s life, doing what it says. We are not to be “hearers only.” The word translated as “hearer” is found only there in Romans 2 and three times here in James 1. This is James’ first use of it, but he will repeat it in verses 23 and 25. This is a clear indication that Paul and James are on the same page despite having seeming differences in their messages. These seeming differences are fine points which will be considered one at a time as they arise.
Next, James says that when you are hearers only, you are “deceiving yourselves.” James makes a pun in the Greek which is not seen in our English translations. He uses the word paralogizomai. It comes from two words, para, meaning something which is contrary when it is compared side by side, and logizomi, meaning “to reason.” That second word comes from the same noun as that which is translated as “word” in the first clause, logos.
His pun can be seen if we show his thought in an English paraphrase –
But be doers of the word.
And not hearers only, thus contrary-to-the-wording yourselves.
The word is what gives wisdom, but the word is also to be acted upon. In not acting upon the word, one fails to make use of the wisdom which the word provides. Thus, we are to 1) know the word (which can only come about through reading and studying the word), and 2) apply that same word to our lives, demonstrating that we have obtained the wisdom of the word, and are willing to act upon it.
Life application: James was written at a time when people would have heard the word spoken, but there weren’t many copies of Scripture for personal use. So, when you read your Bible or daily devotional, keep this verse in mind as it applies as well. However, we will stick with the example given – listening to the word.
When you go to church, the pastor speaks on a given subject that he has studied and which is meant for you to listen to and then apply to your life. Many pastors add in real-life examples as they speak about the particular passage being analyzed. At times, you may have thought, “This applies to exactly my situation today.” Or, you may know someone in the congregation who really needed to hear a particular sermon because it applies to a situation in his life right at that time. However, he might walk out of church having heard the word spoken directly to him, and yet he will continue down the same unhealthy path that he was on before going to church.
Surprisingly enough, you may even hear the guy who listens even comment on what a great sermon it was. It is as if the message went in one ear and out the other, having no effect at all on his life. James is asking us to not allow this to happen. When you hear the word which specifically applies to you, it is because the Lord is trying to wake you up! Don’t merely listen to the word and so deceive yourself. Instead, do what it says!
Pay attention to your devotional each morning as it may be speaking to you, and pay attention to your morning Bible reading as it is certainly speaking to you. God sends His word out for your benefit. Pay attention to His word!
Lord God, we surely thank You for the times You prompt us to action through Your word – spoken or read. Give us wisdom and discerning hearts to apply the instructions we receive to our lives. Let us not simply deceive ourselves by hearing only, but let there be positive growth in us. All this is to Your glory alone. Amen.