The Main Thing – James 1:22-25
Context is always important. We’ve talked about it before, but it needs to be repeated often when we are studying God’s Word. So when we see this little paragraph we cannot divorce it from the rest of the chapter. Instead, we need to see it in light of everything that has preceded it in the book. This is vitally important here because this paragraph functions as the second half of the “therefore” from verse 21.
James just told us that we need to put off evil and receive God’s Word that is implanted in us. Now he comes back with a positive command: we should be doers of God’s Word. If you are in Christ then God has put His Spirit and His Word inside you, now you need to apply it in every aspect of your life.
To do this well we need to really study what the Bible says about us. James is telling us that God’s Word will bring us freedom from sin and victory in temptation. But we have to apply it. He cautions us not to merely listen to the Word. We cannot simply be hearers of the Word — that will not bring lasting change. We need to do the Word. If someone listens but doesn’t apply it then they are deceiving themselves into thinking that they are growing as believers. And it might go even further than that. Many in the church believe they are Christians because they have attended church their whole lives and can recite a lot of information about the Bible. But that doesn’t make somebody a Christian. Being able to pass a test on the Bible or theology isn’t proof of your faith. Genuine faith will manifest itself in changed actions. James will come back to this later on in his book.
James reinforces his point with an interesting analogy. He says that someone who hears the Word but doesn’t do it is like a man who looks at himself in a mirror, but goes away and forgets what he looks like. Let’s let that sink in for a minute. If someone really did that, it would be crazy. Could you imagine looking at yourself and then walking away and forgetting what you looked like? No way. But how many of us will get up in the morning, read God’s Word, process it and write out how you need to think or act differently, then not be changed? This isn’t the way it is supposed to be. When we study the Bible, God actually speaks to us through it. He tells us who we are, what we’re created for, and what needs to change today to get closer to that. What we need to do is apply it.
But let’s remember that God is interested in the long haul. He is committed to making us like Jesus and this is going to take the rest of our lives. He uses everything in our lives to produce this perseverance. We saw earlier in this chapter that He uses trials and tests. Now James is telling us that He uses our personal study of Scripture to produce perseverance. Our part is to continue to press into His Word, let God show us what needs to change, and then apply it to our lives.