Being Doers of the Word
Are we doers of the Word? Do we put into practice what we hear and read from God’s Word? What’s our response when we hear the Word of God preached? Do we implement the Word into our life, or do we give a big amen and go on our way? James 1:22 says we are to be doers of the Word, and not hearers only.
How many of us remember, at one time or another, hearing the Word preached from the pulpit and saying, “Amen, I really hope brother or sister so and so was listening. They really needed to hear that.” We often think the Word applies to everyone but us. Let’s maintain the attitude, “Lord, Is there something you want me to get from this? Is there something you want me to do?”
I’m reminded of a story I heard of a young minister just starting out. He took his first pastorate. On his first Sunday he preached a really powerful sermon. The people were so excited. The leadership of the church thought, we made the right decision choosing him to be our pastor.
His second Sunday service came around and the people were excited as to what they would hear this Sunday. He stood in the pulpit and began to preach the same message he had preached the previous Sunday.
The people and leadership in particular were a bit perplexed but thought it was surely an oversight on the pastor’s part. His third and fourth Sunday sermons turned out to be exactly the same. Being a bit frustrated, the leadership asked to meet with the pastor.
In their meeting, they confronted him that he had preached the same message at each service. The young pastor looked intently at them and said, “Have you put it into practice yet?” They were pierced to the heart and convicted by the young pastor. They had not been doers of the Word.
The Word of God only benefits us if we put it into practice in our daily lives. The writer of Hebrews said, “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the Word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it” (Hebrews 4:2).
The Word of God only profits us if we mix it with faith, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17). Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
I remember a story I heard of a businessman who went on an extended journey. He left one person in charge and said he would be sending him daily instructions on what he was to do. He did as he had said and sent regular directives. He expected responses and updates on how things were going but heard nothing. This went on for some time.
Finally, he decided he had better return and find out what was going on. When he arrived back at his business, he saw people at their leisure and hardly doing anything. As you can imagine, he was not only extremely frustrated but very angry.
He approached the man he had placed in charge and immediately began to vent his frustration toward him. The man looked at him as if to say, “What is wrong? Why are you so upset?” The businessman asked, “Did you not receive all the instructions I sent you?”
The man replied, “Yes we did. They were wonderful. Each set of instructions were read over and over, I even put portions to memory. Once I had thoroughly studied them, I shared them with the rest of our employees. In fact, we took time daily to study and discuss them together. We all really enjoyed your directives.”
The businessman looked at him and said, “If you thought so much of the directives I sent, why didn’t you do what I told you?”
Isn’t that like many of us? We study God’s Word regularly and have Bible studies on a weekly basis, but do we give heed to what God says? Like the businessman, the Lord is going to return one day and we will have to give an account for what we did with God’s directives. He will ask, “Why didn’t you do what I told you?”
James goes on to say, “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, for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was” (James 1:23-24).
He gives us an analogy of a person looking in a mirror. We see ourselves clearly while gazing at ourselves in the mirror but as soon as we walk away we forget what we saw. Try it some time. Look at yourself in the mirror, walk away, and try to remember exactly what you saw. It’s really hard to do. We can look at someone else and after they are gone we can remember specifics about what we saw when we looked at them.
We can remember exactly what they looked like. Yet, we can hardly remember a thing about ourselves. What a spiritual truth! It’s so easy to see and remember imperfections in others but how easily we forget the imperfections we see in ourselves. We can hear a message preached from the Word, God clearly speaks to us and we walk away and so easily forget what He revealed to us.
The word “observes” or “beholds” in verse 24 refers to a glancing look. To best understand this, let’s illustrate it with a picture of a young boy out playing. He’s playing as hard as a boy can, goes inside briefly for something, looks in the mirror and sees the reflection of himself. He notices dirt all over himself. His face is filthy and his clothes are a mess.
Does he get all concerned about what he looks like? Do you imagine him getting in a frenzy trying to clean himself up? No, of course not. He’s a young boy. All he wants to do is hurry up, get back outside and play more. Yes, he saw he was caked with dirt all over but he hardly flinched over it. It was just a glancing look in the mirror and right back out to play.
Isn’t that like most of us? We see ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word, we see the imperfections, we may see something God is requiring of us but it’s just a glancing look and we are quickly back out to play forgetting all about it or we simply rationalize it away. We never get around to putting into practice the revelation God gives us. We are forgetful hearers.
James 1:25 – “But whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in all he does.”
The word for looks into is parakypto in the Greek which means to stoop over and look into, to gaze carefully by the side of, to peer or to peep into, to bend over for closer look, investigation and examination of something. This is not a passing glance as in verse 24.
Unlike verse 23 and the illustration of the young boy who simply made a passing glance of himself in the mirror and quickly runs back out to play, this can be illustrated by the boy a few years latter, a teenager about to go on his first date. While preparing for his date, he looks into the mirror and sees a pimple on the end of his nose.
Do you think he gives a mere glance at what he sees in the mirror as he did when he was a young boy? I think not. Worried about his upcoming date, he picks at it and covers it with makeup so it’s not as noticeable. There’s no way he gives this a passing glance. On the contrary, he gazes carefully at the imperfection he sees in the mirror, bends over for a close look, investigation and examination in hopes of finding a remedy before his date.
This can also be illustrated with the story of the disciple’s investigation into Jesus’ empty tomb. There are three words in the original language which will give us tremendous insight. One of those words has similar meaning to our word parakypto.
Mary went to Jesus’ tomb early Sunday morning and saw the stone had been rolled away. She quickly ran to tell Peter and John. They ran to see what had taken place. John being a little younger and faster arrived at the tomb first. Peter followed closely behind.
John, “stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there yet he did not go in” (John 20:5). The word used is blepo and means to glance at something and indicates only that the object impressed itself on John’s eyes. He didn’t examine what he saw or quite grasp what had happened.
It goes on to show how Peter looked at everything in the empty tomb, the linen clothes, the handkerchief that had been around Jesus’ head, and he even noticed how it had been neatly folded, in a place by itself.
John 20:6 – “Peter came, following him, went into the tomb and saw.”
The word used in verse six is theoreo and means to take careful notice, to contemplate, to behold with intelligence, to scrutinize over. Something caused Peter to puzzle over what he saw (like an empty cocoon retaining the shape or contour of Jesus’ body). How could the body get out of the clothes without unwrapping them?
Then John, “went in also and he saw and believed” (John 20:8). The word used here is Noida which means to see with understanding and believe, to get a mental picture of, to realize what has taken place. John understood the meaning of what he saw, that Jesus was alive and therefore believed that He was risen from the dead.
John initially looked in the empty tomb first, but only glanced at what was inside. It merely made an impression on his eyes. Peter went in afterward scrutinizing and puzzling over all that he saw. Because Peter so pondered over all he saw, John went in the second time, saw and believed.
If we will look into (parakypto), stoop over for a closer look, gaze carefully into, and investigate the Word, we will pave the way for others to see and believe. Let’s not simply give God’s Word a passing glance. When we look intently into the Word of God and put it into practice, we will be blessed in all we do. We will also pave the way for others as well.
Joshua 1:8 – “This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it, for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
Psalms 1:2-3 – “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law does he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth his fruit in his season, his leaf also shall not wither and whatsoever he does shall prosper.”
Luke 11:28 – “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.”