I’m getting ready to dash out the door to work, but I pause long enough to brush my teeth and glance in the mirror. That’s when I notice it-somehow, a big blob of peanut butter ended up on my chin instead of on my toast! But it’s just peanut butter, I’m in a hurry, and who really cares about washing their face? So I head off to work, quickly wiping the thought of peanut butter from my mind, though not off my face.
Actually, I made that last part up. While I must honestly confess that I’ve embarrassed myself by getting food on my face (and clothes!) on more than one occasion, I have never knowingly left the bathroom mirror without first doing something about it. When the mirror shows me a dirty face, I quickly wash it, thankful for the mirror reflecting reality.
James says that God’s Word is like a mirror, reflecting the reality of our hearts. What does a wise man or woman do with this mirror?
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. James 1:22-25
According to James, there are two options: forgetful hearer or effectual doer; delusional or blessed. The Bible is not merely theoretical or even theological, it is also immensely practical. God’s living and active Word is meant to change us at the level of our beliefs, worship, thoughts, speech and behavior. If we content ourselves with merely hearing God’s Word, we are as foolish as the person who sees her dirty face in a mirror and then does nothing except turn away. We need to hear God’s Word, listen to it, read it, study it, hear it preached and memorize it. In doing so, God’s Word is like a mirror, reflecting back to us the areas of our lives we are pleasing the Lord, and also specifics in which we need to repent and grow. However, just as a mirror’s reflection is not enough to get the peanut butter off of my face, exposing my heart to the truth of God’s Word is not enough for my heart to suddenly be conformed to Christ. Both a literal mirror and the mirror of God’s truth call us to action. After seeing God’s holiness and our shortcomings reflected in God’s Word, we need to respond. We are to do God’s Word, to abide by it, obey it, and put it into practice. While we can only do this through the strength of the Holy Spirit, we must not minimize that God calls us to be active doers.
This passage warns us that we deceive ourselves when we hear the Word of God without then properly responding. If I look into a mirror, but then choose to ignore my dirty reflection, the mirror has not benefited me. If I hear God’s Word but then am too passive to obey it, I delude myself into thinking I’m following the Lord. God is pleased when I put His Word into practice, but not if I only listen without responding. God commands us to be doers of His Word, which means to remember it, obey it and apply it to our daily lives. We are to live out the truth, wisdom and commands of the Bible, knowing that God blesses us in doing so.
Have you been responding wisely or foolishly to God’s Word? As it teaches you how to live, think and worship, do you stop at simply hearing, or do you take steps to obediently do? When the Bible reflects that something about your life is out of place and not pleasing to the Lord, then prayerfully take action to change for His glory. May your life increasingly prove that you are a doer of the Word.