21 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.
A few years ago I saw an ad that caught my attention repeated over and over again on the TV shows I watch, and I have seen their ads many times since. It is for a non-profit organization called DoSomething.org. The premise of this website is to encourage young people to do something in their communities to improve them. While this idea is noble, it is not unique. Over the past 15 or 20 years, community service has become in vogue. Every high school student, at least in Southern California, has to donate 20 hours or more of their time to community causes each semester or suffer the possibility of their grades being lowered. The travel baseball team that my son, Clark, is on was started on the premise of high level baseball play and community service. While I think this increase in community awareness is admirable, I have a suspicion that all of this service is more about us, how it makes us feel, and what it does for us than about those that are served.
Secondly, we are called to do something. If we think that the act of listening to what scripture has to say is enough, we are deluded. We are fooling ourselves. It is as ridiculous as someone not knowing their own hair color or eye color or if they have a beard. How could you not remember that after seeing yourself in a mirror? In the same way, how could you read and understand a passage in your personal study or be taught it on a Sunday morning at church or at a Tuesday night Bible study and go on with your life unchanged? I take James’ message as much as a challenge to myself as a challenge to us all. Truth is meant for action.
The Word was meant to change behavior. It was meant to change the way we think, the way we talk, and the way we walk through life. Why look into the mirror of scripture at all if we are going to walk away unchanged by what it reveals? There are no brownie points to be had for the effort, at least none offered by our God. Instead, God desires our best by instructing us in how to live. When we actually do what we are called to do the result is blessing. God’s instructions are not Him pointing His finger and saying, “You better do what I ask.” Instead, it is His gentle hands guiding us into His better plan for our lives. After all, when you think about it, isn’t it better to entrust our choices and behavior to the One who created all that we know, has a far greater perspective than our limited view, and who has carefully laid out the instruction manual for our lives here on earth?
As we understand the truth, may we be “effectual doers” and not “forgetful hearers”.