Getting Over on Ourselves – Part 1
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22 NIV)
In this day and age when we’re being warned about Ponzi schemes, all-you-can-eat diet plans for sale, and other scams that con artists use to try and deceive others for their own sordid gain, we are warned in Scripture about a con job that all of us can be blind to. You see, James warns us in his New Testament letter that we can get over on ourselves. How? By being hearers of the Word only, and not doers.
James likens it to the act of looking at ourselves in the mirror, seeing that there’s something amiss – e.g., a smudge on our face – and then walking away and not doing anything about it. You see, the thing about looking in a mirror is that if you don’t quickly address what’s wrong, you soon forget what you looked like. That’s why people have to look in a mirror more than once a day. What James is striking at is the danger of going to church and hearing the Word of God, or listening to gospel music, and feeling the warm sensation that can come from just hearing the Word delivered through a sermon or a song, and then saying to ourselves, “That was a good truth! We had church!” Or reading something in the Bible in our devotional time and saying, “That is a beautiful verse!” Or taking communion and going through a form of worship in a church service—regardless of whether it’s a Roman Catholic mass or a denominational or non-denominational service— and sensing the thrill of it, but never acting upon any of it. Someone could even have a vast library and read good, spiritual books that strike a chord within them, but within five minutes they could forget what they’ve read. We thus become hearers of the Word and not doers.
James says it’s easy to be a hearer and not a doer—to read about sacrifice and then stay in bed when there’s an opportunity to help someone in need; to become thrilled when we hear how the gospel has changed someone yet find ourselves for months not telling anybody about Jesus and what he’s done in our lives; to get all worked up hearing a sermon about going into the whole world to preach the gospel, so that our hearts are pounding, but never leave our comfort zone to do it. That, James says, is a tremendous snag in the Christian faith. So James says, “Don’t be just a hearer of the Word; be a doer of the Word.” In other words, don’t just read about love; say, “God, help me to love!” Don’t just hear a sermon about patience and say, ‘”Oh, that’s good. Amen, brother!” Along with that, you have to go to God and ask him for patience (without getting shocked when God allows your patience to be tried!).
To be continued…
Read James 1:19-24.