James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
A basic part of the Christian life involves ears and hands. Ears hear, hands do. Hear nothing, or the wrong thing, then your hands will probably not know what to do, or know the right thing to do.
Hearing without doing is pretty useless. Doing without hearing is dangerous or futile. The point is, our hands are bossed around by our brains. Our brains are molded by the holes in the side of our head. Not only should you be careful what goes in, you have to then do something with it, or you’re wasting your time. Let’s examine verses 19-27 of James 1:
James 1:19 – So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; (NKJV)
“So then…” means something came before that. If you look, you’ll see James was talking about loving God even while suffering. SO THEN… having been told God is not the source of suffering and we are his first fruits, we find our marching orders. Plain, simple, to the point.
Mouth Shut, Ears Open
Swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. Listen, shut up, and don’t get mad easily. Do you really have to write a whole bunch to explain that?
James 1:21 – Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (NKJV)
Listen, keep your mouth shut, don’t be angered easily AND get rid of wickedness and worldly filthiness in your life. Doesn’t do a whole lot of good to hear God’s word, zip your lips, be patient… then turn around and engage yourself in all the world’s filthy lusts and pleasures. The next part of the verse also reminds us if your mind and eyes are polluted with evil, your heart is not properly prepared to receive the “implanted word” with “meekness”.
The implanted word speaks of Biblical knowledge that STICKS in your heart and GROWS. It doesn’t just pass in one ear and out other. It’s alluding to the good seed planted in the good ground, ready to grow and create a bountiful harvest (Mark 4:8).
Meekness is power under control, discipline. It is a picture of routine diligence, effort and hard work. In other words, receiving God’s Word is neither haphazard or casual but a planned EFFORT. What good is that? It “is able to save your souls.” Can you think of anything gooder than that?
James 1:22-24 – 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 observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. (NKJV)
Now we get to the hands and ears part. We find the supremely practical advice of “don’t just hear, do”. Unlike Nike, it’s not “just do it”. It’s “hear and then do what you heard”, put to action the “implanted word”.
We have a lot of deception today. No, not Satanic cults, I’m talking about inside the church walls. The Bible says we are deceiving ourselves when we “hear” but not “do”. We have endless teaching, books, resources, preaching, radio, TV and an internet full of Christian information. There is no lack anywhere, anytime of Godly things to “hear” and yet we see an all time LOW of “doing”. I’m not talking about religious acts, traditions or functions at church. I mean DOING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE in accordance to what we hear.
In fairness, a lot of what we hear today labeled “Christian teaching” is watered down, sugar coated, rah-rah, abundant life, success, positive-thinking, metaphysical humanism (did I cover all the bases?)… worldly motivational talks sprinkled with some out-of-context Bible verses. When you hear the wrong thing, you can’ t help but DO the wrong thing. There will be a LOT to be answered for on Judgment Day from the “Christian leaders and teachers” line. That’s exactly why the Bible says “not many” should teach (James 3:1). If you look around, you would think the Bible says “everyone have a go at it” especially if you can make money, feel good or be popular.
Ignoring Your Pimples
Point being, despite all the poor teaching, we still have an all time high availability of good teaching but it doesn’t seem, generally speaking, it’s getting from the ears to the hands. This is self deception, like a man who looks at himself in the mirror, sees all the scars, pimples and messy hair, then walks away, forgetting what he just saw thinking instead, he is beautiful and perfect.
In summary, hearing God’s Word and not doing do it is like immediately forgetting the big nasty pimple you just saw on your nose. Hmmm… not sure that would fly in seminary or the pulpit, but you get the point.
James 1:26 – If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. (NKJV)
Rein In That Tongue
Do you think you are “religious”? That’s kind of a dirty word today and invokes images of a hypocrite going through the motions to appear “holy”. That’s not what it means here. James is saying “if you really think you are Godly, but you don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself… you are NOT Godly”.
He goes on to say that all your efforts to be Godly (“religious”) are a waste of time if you done tame that mouth. That’s a pretty powerful statement. Any time you read in the Bible something like “don’t bother, you are wasting your time”, you should perk up and take a good look. Nobody wants to waste their time, and we sure don’t want to be wasting it when it comes to eternity.
Rein in that tongue or quit
wasting your time on Christianity.
Burn this into your brain: anyone who does not put the reins on their evil little tongue is wasting their time trying to be Godly. That’s how important it is to have tongue-control. If you aren’t putting a cork in that gossiping, complaining, lying mouth of yours, you are just fooling yourself if think you are living a Christian life. It’s useless, a waste of time. You’re lying to yourself. Wow… can there be a more powerful warning about an aspect of our behavior?
James 1:27 – Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (NKJV)
What Is Godliness?
James doesn’t leave anyone wondering what true Godliness looks like. I’m often asked “what is the Christian life? What can I do to please God? How can I know I’m doing God’s will?” There are a lot of answers to that, but there is one FOR SURE right here.
If you parked on this one verse and made it the focal point of your entire life, you wouldn’t have to go any farther to please God. He calls caring for orphans and widows PURE and UNDEFILED. That’s means there is NOTHING wrong with it. It is ONLY good.
To “visit them in their trouble” means to care for their needs. They are two of the truly helpless groups in this world. No parents, no family, no spouse, no one “responsible” for them. They cannot repay you. You won’t get famous for it. It won’t result in awards and recognition. It’s pure and undefiled Christianity to care for them.
To keep yourself unspotted from the world. What is unspotted? Without spots (thought that one up all by myself).
It means that drops, drips, splatters and residue from evil and wickedness are not on you. Does that mean that worldliness will never touch you or stain you? No… the verse says “to keep oneself…” That is a picture of continual de-spotting, de-greasing, de-staining. It’s using the “Christian bar of soap” to continually wash yourself of the world’s spots (sin).
1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (NKJV)
In a Nutshell
Okay, let’s sum it up and put it in one of those neat little lists:
- Lay aside filthy wickedness
- Open your ears
- Control that renegade that lives between your chin and nose
- Just hear it… Just do it
- Care for orphans and widows
- Wash the sinful spots from your soul continually, and don’t play in the filth
That’s about as plain and simple a description of “the Christian life” I can come up with. Easy to understand but requires daily diligence and effort.
What are your questions about that pimple on your nose?