James 1:24

Monday, 24 June 2019

…for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. James 1:24

The verse is part of a single thought which comprises the previous verse and this one –

“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.”

James says that this person is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror. The Greek gives a sudden, lively sense to what is said. The man “observes himself.” It is an aorist verb indicating a fleeting act – he observed himself. He next “goes away.” It more literally reads, “and has gone away.” The perfect tense indicates a completed action but it continues into the present. From there it says, “and immediately forgets.” There is no remembrance at all of what he saw. He did see himself, but he neglected to consider what he saw, which is “what kind of man he was.” Young’s Literal Translation gives the sense of the Greek –

“for he did view himself, and hath gone away, and immediately he did forget of what kind he was.”

The repetition of the word “and” reveals the sudden and swift nature of what occurred, and it brings out an ironic element. The person saw the face of his birth, meaning the carnal man, and yet it left no impression on him.

What is being compared here is this man to the hearer of the word who fails to act upon what he hears. In other words, he can be equated to the person in the pew who hears the words of the preacher, sees himself reflected in what was said, and who then fails to act upon the words which clearly pointed to his own natural, fallen state. There is no change in him except that he is a moment older in time.

Life application: When a person gets up in the morning, looks at the shabby face in the mirror – unshaven, stuff in his eyes, hair all messy, etc – and then walks away not caring about his appearance, he shows that his natural, unkempt, and (to others) offensive looks mean nothing. The Bible is like a mirror to us. It gives us common sense life lessons and warnings that are meant to guide us. Take this proverb as an example –

“A soft answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

Someone who reads this verse, contemplates it, and then lives by it will certainly benefit from the counsel. No matter how correct your argument is, if you present it harshly, you will only stir up anger and chase people away from your view. If you are the type who has trouble dealing calmly with others, applying this proverb to your life can only benefit you.

However, by rejecting its words, you are just like the disheveled person mentioned above. You should know your appearance will offend others, but instead of shaving your whiskers, combing your hair, and washing your face, you go out as you are and no one wants to be near you. Then you wonder why you’re such a lonely guy.

Look into the Bible, absorb it, and then apply it to your life. Don’t be the person James uses for this negative example. Instead, be the person whom the Lord exalts because of his faithful application of sound biblical advice. In the end, you will benefit more than you can possibly imagine.

Heavenly Father, may we be wise when listening to sermons, reading your word, or contemplating daily devotionals. Help us to apply these valuable insights to our own lives, rather than walking away and forgetting what we have heard or read. In the end, we will certainly be the ones to suffer if we don’t. So prompt us to be responsible and faithful followers of You and Your word. Amen.

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