When you’re thinking biblical stuff and you hear this:
what do you think of?
I think either “The word of God” – as in Bible
Or THE “Word” – as in Our Lord.
So when I’ve read this verse all these many years as a Christian,
“Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.” (James 1:22)
I’ve always thought it meant, “When I read the Bible, remember what it says, and apply it.”
And that wasn’t a bad thing…
but is it what this verse really means?
Is that what it meant to the readers of this letter of James?
Here’s the deal. They didn’t have Scripture called “the Word” back then, just Scripture. And at the time of this letter – that meant only the OT.
So the “word”, in this verse, is not “Scripture” – it’s the word of truth – the Gospel. And the readers of this letter hadn’t read any Gospel at all – they’d heard it. That’s why it’s “hearers” of the word, not “readers” of the word.
And the “hearing” of the word? It means way more than just making a bow of assent to the Gospel – then going on my merry way.
“Hearing” this word means living it out,
not just listening to it,
not just knowing about it.
It’s the message firmly planted in the soil of my heart.
The “word” is always good,
There lies the problem.
The problem is being a “doer”.
And I also always thought that “being a doer” was a catchy new phrase James came up with. But I have to keep reminding myself that James is the definitive Jewish Christian. He used lots of definitively Jewish phrases – and this is one.
The Greeks and Romans used this term – “doer of the law”. To them it meant being an orator, or legislator, or a lawyer. But to the people of Israel it had always meant obedience to the commandments of God. Being a “doer” of the law began way back in the time of Moses,
“When Moses came to the people and related all the words and ordinances of the LORD, they all answered with one voice, “We will do everything that the LORD has told us.” (Ex 24:3)
If I claim the name Christian – and don’t strive to “do” – or to obey – then I’m a paper Christian at best – and not fit for the kingdom.
Jesus said just this much in Matt 5:19 “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
The Greek word translated here as “obey”, is the same one James uses for, “doer of the word”.
Hearing, in this verse means doing. Doing means obeying.
Now I have to practice it. Done…
If I accept the word, and take it to heart, and honestly try to live the law of love, but mess up, that’s where Grace is needed…
and completes the circle where I fail.
But if I hear the word of truth, give it a nod, and live as I want anyway, then I’m deluding myself into thinking I’m a Christian at all.
James, and his brother, Our Lord Jesus, were very clear that being a follower meant being a doer.
I have to ask myself right now, “What kind of a doer am I?”
James really does make me look in the mirror
by the way,
is tomorrow’s verse…