Therefore, having done with all degradation and rampant wickedness, receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to fully restore your lives. And so, become doers of the word, not just hearers, [in which case you would be] deceiving yourselves. For if any person is [simply] a hearer of the word and not a doer, then he is like a man who, looking intently at his face in a mirror, looks at himself and goes away and immediately forgets his characteristics. But the one looking into the complete law, the law of liberty, who perseveres, is no hearer who forgets but [simply] a doer who acts, this one will indeed be blessed in his actions. If anyone thinks himself to be religious and without bridling his tongue deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and spotless before God, the Father, is this: visiting orphans and widows in their affliction, and keeping oneself unstained from the world. - James I: 21-27/transliteration by Bruce C Wearne


ACTING UPON THE WORD? If a man simply hears the Word of God and does not act upon it, he is like a man who looks in a mirror than turns away and immediately forgets his characteristics, says James. PICTURE: Stephen Mayes/Unsplash


James is concerned to explain to his readers who they are. What we are created to do in this life comes into view when we realise who we are. 

Instead of getting trapped by one's own over-weaning presumption, and distracted so that one simply turns away, our hope is that God works with the meek, the ones in whom His promises are planted, ensuring that they will inherit the earth. Their way of life has been completely restored.

To live entirely as God has purposed has been God's creational intention for them all along. He is the giver of a fully restored way of life. This is not a matter of consoling oneself with "nice" ideas. This is all about God's word actually cultivating the restoration of life.

Without His word we are deaf. Without His light we have no sight. Without His ongoing cultivation of us, by the Word He implants in our lives, wholehearted service is simply not on our horizon. But now that it is, we hear what God has achieved for us and so do what God has always been wanting us to do. The one who only hears has to live out of a shattering disjunction between what should be inextricably united in a life of blessed joy.

Later, James discusses special problems faced by those who teach, who "do by talking". That is a special application but what he outlines here is the basis for any service since service requires a restored life, the life of shalom. This is a New Testament version of Psalm 1: "That man or woman is a happy one whose the Torah of the Lord; who ruminates on Torah of the Lord day and night".

Rather than sit in mocking, scoffing company, this person walks in the Lord's footsteps, going out of her way to visit orphans and widows in their suffering and loneliness. Get real with your service of the Lord, people! writes James. This is the way to walk and to live since you are those who have been healed by the sacrificial life of the spotless Lamb of God. This is to walk just as the Lord has always said, "To do justice, to love kindness and to walk meekly with your God" (Micah 6:8).