“Be Ye Doers of the Word…”
By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell
Scripture Readings: James Chapter 1
Key Verses: James 1:22-25
“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 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; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 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 shall be blessed in what he does.”
The first part of this scripture is one that I have known most of my life, had memorized without effort because it was inscribed inside the church on the wall in a half-domed alcove where the altar was in the front of the church. I went to St. James’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, VA, as a child and “Be ye doers of the word and not ye hearers only” was written in that space. I remember reading it and thinking about it many times. That, in itself, is a lesson—what we are often exposed to becomes a part of our learning. If we read our Bibles often, the scripture will become a part of us also. This scripture is a part of my life and has been for a long time.
James, who was the half-brother of Jesus and whom the Apostle Paul respected and took advice from, as noted in my KEY WORD Study Bible (NASB) (Acts 21:18-26), makes a point in the book that faith is manifested by action and that those who hear the word of God should be compelled to act on what they hear. Christians who hear the word and do nothing more with it than to acknowledge having heard it never grow in faith. They don’t recognize that they belong to the living God. I love the part of these verses that mentions looking in the mirror. It makes me remember that we are made in the image of God. If we look at our own reflection and do not recognize that we belong to God and do not act as a disciple of Christ, we “have forgotten what kind of person” we are meant to be.
If we hear the word of God and we ignore it, we are, as the parable warns, like the seed that falls on rocky ground and does not grow. James makes a point of saying later in the book that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).
I believe, as I wrote in a previous post, that Christians who sincerely accept Jesus as their savior and acknowledge Him do not lose their salvation if they “fall away,” presuming that God accepted their act of faith as genuine. But, that decision is God’s decision to accept. If faith does not demonstrate itself in good works, one might have to question the sincerity of the faith. If the Holy Spirit dwells within us, wouldn’t we naturally want to do God’s will?
This really does depend on spiritual growth—those who grow in faith will by their very nature want to do His will and that faith will be demonstrated in their actions.
James also says in Chapter 2 that acknowledging God is not enough because even “the demons believe, and shudder” (James 2:19). This should make us pay attention!
James, the half-brother of Jesus whose own ministry was to bring other Jews to Christ, was one of the closest people to Jesus and his life and teachings. He was there. He saw. He believed. He lived with our Lord and grew up with Him as He lived in a physical body. He martyred himself for this belief. He tells us that to follow Jesus is to do His will, to act, to do good works in His name. That’s strong testimony and strong advice. We should not only want to do good works, we should be excited to do the will of God and to do so cheerfully.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, as I read my Bible, help me to understand your word so that I May cheerfully live according to your will and to do what is pleasing in your sight.