“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 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. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”
(James 1:22-25, NKJV)
This passage has been used by religious people to instil guilt and shame, saying that we must obey the word and get our acts right in order to become “good christians”. But this passage is talking about understanding first our identity in Christ by beholding the perfect law of liberty – who is Jesus Christ Himself – and declaring who we really are and living according to our true identity. The following text explains the context clearly.
THOUGHTS FOR LIFE December 9 (by Francois du Toit)
What does it mean to be a doer of the word? There is a big difference between doing in order to, and doing because of.
James says that anyone may hear the Word of truth (the true testimony of his redeemed spirit identity) but if what he hears does not impact his doing and spontaneous lifestyle beyond the next contradiction, he deceives himself. If James was merely promoting a moral obligation towards good conduct, his contribution would be out of context. Then we might as well continue with our will-power driven efforts to succeed under the law of Moses. But James makes it very clear what not doing the word means: the one who goes away from what he heard (the word of truth, 1:17,18) is the one who immediately forgets what manner of man he is. (:22-24)
To go away means to slip back into an old routine-pattern of thinking and speaking about yourself and others; to be lured away from the impact of the Word of truth. When the temptation and contradiction comes the vessel is without rudder and is swept away by the storm to be tossed about and shipwrecked by double mindedness. The doer of the Word is the one who sees with such focus and insight the truth about his origin in God as the basis of his true identity that any contradiction is nullified. The doing of the Word is the action and conversation inspired by the truth of man′s spirit identity revealed and realised. Js.1:19,25, Js.3:2.
Jesus says the same thing, that unless one hears and digs deep in order to lay the foundation upon the Rock, the structure of the house one builds will be swept away by the storms of life. Lk. 6:47-49.
In the original Greek, the word “doer” is “to speak”.
So we could say it like this: Anyone who hears the ‘WORD’ (The Word here is Jesus, John 1:1) but does not “DO” (speak) what it says is like a man who looks at his face in “a MIRROR” (a “Mirror” here is the finished work of the lord Jesus Christ at the Cross or What Christ has done on your behalf), and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
In Philemon 1:6 also, it says “the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.” 2 Corinthians 4:13 also tells us “And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believed and therefore I spoke, we also believe and therefore speak’.”
As Charles Nieman says, “Faith is believing and speaking”.