Online Bible Commentary
Be a Doer
James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 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. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. 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. 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)
In this passage, James, the half brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem church, continues with his sermon on practical and holy living. He is writing to Christian Hebrews who have been dispersed from Jerusalem because of religious persecution. His words, divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit, form God’s words to Christians of today.
James exhorts his hearers to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (v. 22a). If we live like a saint on Sunday but like the devil the rest of the week, what good have we done? The answer is that we have done more harm than good. We portray ourselves as being a Christian, but our life reflects anything but that. We deceive ourselves (v. 22b), and others. We are not living a life that wins, and we are turning others off to Christianity.
James describes this person as “a man observing his natural face in a mirror” (v. 23). The man looks in the mirror for a brief instant and then “goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was” (v. 24). How many of us, before going out, glance in the mirror and then run out of the house. I would say virtually no one does this. We shower, brush our teeth, and shave or put on make-up, among other things. Then we check ourselves in the mirror before leaving.
We don’t just glance in the mirror and immediately forget what we saw. We see ourselves as we are and we take steps to improve on ourselves. We should do the same when we hear or read the word of God. We should meditate on and study the word and then apply it to our lives.
When we are a doer, and not just a hearer, we are blessed. James writes “he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (v. 25).
Notice that James writes that we should be doers of the “work”. It is work to study and understand the Bible. Work takes time, and effort. We should allow the time each day to study the Bible. We should put in the effort to really study it. It also takes effort to put into practice what we learn from the Bible. It means that we have to make changes in our lives. These changes can affect friendships, favor, or finances. They are necessary changes if we want to be “blessed”.
Part of being a doer is to “bridle the tongue” (v. 26a). Your words are a reflection of your heart. If you think you are religious, but your words do not match your religion, you are only deceiving your “own heart” (v. 26b). Your “religion is useless” (v. 26c). You are not growing in the Lord. Inside you are holding on to the same convictions and the same past. You may not think that, but your words will tell on you every time. God sees the heart.
If you attend church every time the doors are open but your heart is not changed, God is not impressed. You need to do the “work”. It is work to grow in your faith. It is work to study the Bible and apply it to your life. When you change your heart, you will change the words that come out of your mouth. You will “bridle the tongue”.
James concludes this passage with a call to practical religion and holiness. Practical religion means to minister to others. The example he uses is to “visit orphans and widows” (v. 27a). This is a reference to helping others, or ministering to others. There are many ways that we can put our faith into action. We can do this by working in the church. We can do this by ministering to the community, by showing the love of God.
Holiness is referred to as keeping “oneself unspotted from the world” (v. 27b). As Christians we are “in the world”, but we should not be “of the world”. The ways of the world are not the ways of God. When we study the Bible we learn the ways of God. The more we study and apply the word to our lives the more Christlike we become. We need to do the work. It is work to be a doer.