Being A Doer, Not Just A Listener
“But prove yourselves doers of the word [actively and continually obeying God’s precepts], and not merely listeners [who hear the word but fail to internalize its meaning], deluding yourselves [by unsound reasoning contrary to the truth]. For if anyone only listens to the word without obeying it, he is like a man who looks very carefully at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he immediately forgets what he looked like. But he who looks carefully into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and faithfully abides by it, not having become a [careless] listener who forgets but an active doer [who obeys], he will be blessed and favored by God in what he does [in his life of obedience].” James 1:22-25 AMP
Imagine that; looking at yourself in the mirror only to leave and immediately forget what you looked like. And not just forget what you were wearing or how you were styled, but forgetting your face, and forgetting who you are.
In a medical sense, we might look at that and think of similarities to a case of dementia. In a spiritual sense, this might look like losing or forfeiting our identity. In both scenarios, it’s clear that we are not healthy.
We live in an age, the information age to be exact, where people have more access to more bible [and study, understanding, and experience] than ever before. We have multiple translations, video and audio libraries (many of them free), commentaries, Hebrew and Greek dictionaries, and biblical research, and so much more. And perhaps at the same time, we are more biblically illiterate than ever before. Everyone has their own flavor of theology of ‘what I think, feel, or believe that this means or how I should respond.’
We are perhaps also more disobedient than ever before. We do what we want living “our best life” and living out “our truth.” Information and convenience (pleasure) have become the idols of our day.
But the Word is clear that we must be hearers and doers of the Word. Not our version of it, but THE Word, and the leading by His Spirit. We have to desire to know what He really meant when He said what He said. And to make what’s important to Him, important to us.
It’s not enough to know about God and His “rules.” We must also know Him, His characters, ways, and heart.
And in knowing Him, we must obey Him, loving Him through His love language of obedience [John 14.15].
Why have we settled with just knowing and not doing? As the text indicates, knowing doesn’t change us. But knowing + doing can and does. We also call this obedience. The doing part is faith in action.
It’s not truth alone that makes us free. It’s our responding to the Truth [in obedience] that makes us free. Notice the passage here also warns against “deluding yourselves” which the amplified translation then explains the context as “[by unsound reasoning contrary to the truth].” How often do we talk ourselves out of what we inherently know to do?
The metaphor that the scripture uses here is powerful. James says, hearing the Word and not being a doer of it is like someone who looks in the mirror and forgets “what sort he was” (Greek translation). Surely, if we look into Truth (the Word) and look away (not do it), we will/have forgotten who we are and who we’re from (our identity).
When we pull away from God to do our own thing, we forget who we are. We forget Who we’re supposed to look like. After all, we take our identity and worldview from Him and Him revealed in His Word. If we’re not following that, we’re surely following something or someone else.
James also says but he/she who is an “active doer” of the Word becomes blessed and favored in what they put their hand to. The context of being blessed and favored comes with obedience. In other words, God blesses and favors what the active doer puts their hand to that He chooses — not what we choose.
What God initiates, He permeates. What I initiative, I have to sustain. And whatever I obtain outside of obedience, I generally have to remain in disobedience to sustain it.
God blesses and favors the life of obedience (a life yielded to Him). The word “active” in active doer here denotes present and ongoing — not once upon a time ago or even just earlier or yesterday, but constantly and consistently. A lifestyle of doing, following [Jesus], and obeying is the lifestyle of an active doer — a doer of the Word.
The Greek translation for “active doer” is a doer of work. We cannot work for our salvation but we must always work in our salvation. We must also work from our salvation. We must work and we must do.
Our doing and our working are found in our obedience within our daily lives, within our jobs, assignments, service, recreation, entertainment, families, and homes. For when we work, we work as unto the Lord as a form of worship.
To listen only to the Word and what God says, and not do, is like sitting at the table but not eating. It’s pointless and generally rather offensive. It’s a clear indication that we don’t want what’s being offered. God has invited us to the table and He wants to partake with us.
So let’s be listeners with an appetite to do. Let’s be doers. Let’s go to work. ??