On our journey through the book of James, we have come to this well-known passage. James, here and in the entire epistle, calls us to put our faith into action. He admonishes us to be "doers of the word, not hearers only". Let's explore the meaning of these words.
James' main message is one we should always remember when studying any book of the Bible: Don't just study God's Word but apply it to your life!
After all, what is the point of knowing God's commands if we do not follow them or understanding His heart if we are unwilling to change ours.
Making More Lists
We have already created one list do help us compile what we learn about God's character in the Book of James. Every time, while we are studying this epistle and come across a character trait of God, we will add it to that list.
What does this list accomplish? At the end of our study, we will have a summary of all that we learned about God. We can look back at that list and remember all these truths about our Heavenly Father.
The completed list serves as a summary, but the process of writing it also helps us to focus on a few key truths. In this case, we want to remember to pick up on God's character as we study to know Him.
Let's add a second list. We will call this, "What does James call me to do?”
Every time you find a command or admonition from James in the book of James, add it to the list. Keep it handy, because James challenges us quite a bit to put our faith into action. This, of course, is our heart when studying Scripture. We want to learn God's will for us and then submit to it in faith and action.
Be doers of the word, not hearers only
James challenges us to not only listen to the Word but then do what it says. He uses the following word picture to help us understand why reading Scripture without applying it is such a big problem:
“Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” James 1:23-24
I'd like for you to picture yourself at a cocktail party. You excuse yourself to the bathroom where you look at yourself in the mirror. You see a giant stain on your face. How embarrassing! But instead of removing it, you walk right out back into that party hall, looking completely inappropriate. What was the point of looking in the mirror in the first place? You saw there was dirt on your face and didn't remove it. You didn't even think about it. You just turn around and walked right back, looking the way you do. You may as well not have looked in the mirror at all.
It's the same way with Bible study.
If you're going to read the Bible, you need to desire to apply it as well. If you're reading the Bible, maybe as a daily habit, but you walk away without attempting to apply it, you may as well not have read it at all.
Let's say you read today's passage, James 1:19-27. You see James admonition to be slow to anger. You're currently holding on to bitterness and a very angry, and you know it. But you close your Bible, turn around, and yell at your kids without any hesitation.
Of course, even when we try our hardest to apply Scripture and do what it says, we continue to struggle in our sin nature here on earth. We won't do it perfectly, but God honors our attempt and our willingness to change. That is truly what James is calling us to do. He wants us to decide that we are going to put our faith into action.
Be slow to anger
One of the areas in which James tells us to apply God's Word is in our demeanor towards others. This is some of the best relationship advice you will ever receive. 1. Be quick to listen, 2. be slow to speak, and 3. be slow to become angry.
Oh, those verses are easier said than done. I struggle with this too, as do many of you, I'm sure. Here's my challenge to all of us: Don't just look at that last part: slow to become angry. That seems like hardest one. But I think James is giving us a three-part process.
It might be easier to first focus on being quick to listen. Don't jump to conclusions. Don't have a short fuse. Instead, decide to listen patiently and readily.
Don't speak right away, but think before you speak. Listen, before even thinking about speaking. It is then that we are giving ourselves much time to change our angry response.
James tells us that sometimes we might have to dig even deeper. Is there any filth or evil in our lives that we need to get rid of and humble ourselves before the Lord? Is there something dark inside of us causing our anger? It might be jealousy, envy, or even a fear of rejection.
Be honest with yourself and ask God to cure you from the inside out and allow you to truly be a doer of these two verses: to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.
pure and faultless religion
James continues by telling us to keep a tight ring around our tongues. He will get into more detail in chapter 3. Of course, when we have an angry outburst, we are not keeping that tight ring around our tongue. We are not watching our words.
James is using this as an example to make a pretty powerful statement: If we consider ourselves religious but then do not live out these basic commandments of Scripture - like watching our words - our religion is worthless. Wow!
God is not looking for a bunch of people trying to look "holier than thou" but not actually acting in love. Instead, James says, the type of religion that God accepts as pure is to look after orphans (care for others) and keep oneself from being polluted by the world (following God with diligence). Love God and love others! Sound familiar?
I find this verse so interesting in today’s context as many unbelievers (and even believers) demote the idea of "religion". A Christian may say, "I don’t like religion. I’d rather just follow God."
Why do we have this negative notion of religion? It’s because many people today associate it with faith-followers who are unloving. The term sounds institutionalized and impersonal. It sounds like it’s about rituals and to-do lists rather than relationship and love.
That’s not what religion should look like - God agrees. Being a religious person should be about loving God and loving people, having faith and putting it into action.
What a powerful passage! I hope you are following this blog series with the Awaken Faith Bible study guide. It will take you through the book of James passage by passage, verse by verse, so that you can truly be challenged to grow in your faith through the study of the book of James.
As you study this passage, ask God to work in your life. May He convict us and teach us to put our faith into action, to be doers of His Word, not hearers only.