James 1

Hearing and Doing the Word

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. [1]



Thoughts, words, and deeds.  Thoughts, words, and deeds.  Be quick to hear the Word of God that fills your thoughts.  Be slow to speak.  Because you can’t hear God’s Word if you are constantly spouting off.  And not hearing God and constant talking leads to anger.  Don’t believe me, just look at the comments on the Internet for just about any topic, or read the lips of motorists on your morning commute, or see how we will vent about  – well – just about anyone… slow to anger?… hardly.  Oh and that angry moral superiority won’t make you righteous either, won’t make you right with God.  Want to be right? Then throw your own moral filthiness into the garbage… ditch your own base primal meanness gone amuck and wickedness that has gone wild.


Even if you take a long glance in the mirror of the Law to reflect on true righteousness, but then forget what it looks like as soon as you walk out of the bathroom, you are only fooling yourself if you think that makes you holy and just.  If your mind and heart are so hardened to the Word of God that it never makes it past your eardrum, it is a sham.  No matter how religious you portray yourself to be, your unbridled tongue that you wield like a dagger, and your heartless lack of compassion for the weak and poor in their afflictions, your religion is façade.  And face it, you are covered in the stain of this world: a world gone cold and vain and heartless and angry.  Thoughts, words, and deeds saturated with original sin: engrained into our very nature.


I don’t know about you, but when I gaze into the mirror of the Law and see my reflection, it’s no pretty sight: nothing I’d want to take a selfie of – all covered in filth and wickedness.  If my eternal judge will base my religiosity on how I have loved my neighbor and cared for the weak… when even the good that I do is stained by vanity and pride… if God uses a scale of my doing verses my not doing the Word, the scales of justice all point to guilty.  And it’s surely not blessings that I see coming my way if I will be judged by my righteousness, my righteousness that is anything but the perfect standard that is to be kept, or judged by a worthless religion that I have stained.


It would indeed seem hopeless… to be able to save my soul by my own doing of the Word.  I could no more put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness in me than I could change my own reflection in the mirror.  And if the thought of this doesn’t terrify you, then you are fooling yourself and deceiving your own heart.  But if it does terrify you… then repent.  Turn from your wickedness and turn back to God.  And look, look into the mirror of God’s righteousness.  Look to the image of the perfect law, the law of liberty… look to Jesus.  See Christ who from the moment He took upon our flesh, fulfilled the Law perfectly.  See Christ who suffers and dies, to bear your sin in His own flesh and pours out His blood to make atonement for not doing the Word because of your unbelief.  He who is the Word, Jesus Christ, is a doer of the Word… perfectly and completely.  As He announces from the cross… it is finished, you are set free, at liberty from your sin.


It was all done for you, to receive on bended knee with meekness and humility the implanted Word, which is able to save your soul. Placed within you permanently, poured out upon you, the image of Christ reflecting in that baptismal pool.  This is the grace of God, to put away all that is unclean and wicked, that you would be pure and undefiled.  This is the grace of God, to be covered in Christ and robed in His righteousness when you look in the mirror: and there is no more beautiful sight than this.  Through the forgiveness of sins implanted in your ear and placed upon your lips, comes the gift of faith that bridles your tongue to serve God, and cleanses your heart to make you a doer of the Word.


Doing the Word of God, caring for the widow and the orphan in their afflictions, it is no chore when it is in Christ.  My beloved brothers and sisters, it is who you are, a religion that is pure and undefiled in the very fabric of your being as a new creation in Christ.  Your tongue, your hands, your feet, all instruments of God’s grace.  The world may be in opposition to God’s Will and His Righteousness, but it is implanted within you.  Ears opened to hear the Word, tongues loosed to sing praise and tell the Good News, and it is a blessing and pure joy to be doers of the Word.  Just as St Lawrence, deacon and martyr, so gladly gave his life, literally, to care for the poor.  Listen | speak | do… brothers and sisters… and be blessed in your doing… in the full assurance that all has been said and done for your salvation.



[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Jas 1:19–27). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.