You’ve heard the phrase, “in one ear and out the other”: you hear something, but you’re not really listening, so it doesn’t have any meaningful impact. Sometimes that’s how we approach the Word of God.
When my wife and I watch YouTube, often we’ll watch it while looking at our phones or helping the kids. We’re listening to the video, but we’re not really paying full attention, so it’s not really having a lasting impact on our lives. Much of what’s on YouTue, however, is not really intended to be life-transforming; it’s primarily for entertainment.
Scripture, unlike YouTube, is supposed to be life-transforming. God’s Word is supposed to have an impact on our lives! It teaches us about who God is, how to be saved, who Jesus is, and how to live in God’s will. Sadly, though, many people don’t pay attention to what God is telling us in Scripture. They hear the Word (or read it), but the message goes in one ear and out the other, resulting in no significant life transformation after they encounter the Word of God.
In James 1:22-25, God is calling us not just to be hearers of the Word but to be doers of the Word. In this passage, we’re gonna see three things:
- Instructions to live God’s Word, not just hear it
- The consequences of being hearers only
- The benefit of being doers of God’s Word
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.
Live It, Don’t Just Hear It
In verse 22, James gets right to the point: we’re not merely to hear the Word of God, we need to act on the Word of God. We need to apply it to our lives. We need to live out what we see written in God’s Word.
God gives His Word to show us not only Himself but also how to live. He shows us how to live in a relationship with Him, and He shows us how to live in relationships with each other. Through His word, God also tells us that we’re supposed to put our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, we’re supposed to love God, and we’re supposed to love one another.
These aren’t mere philosophical ideas; these are principles for life!
These are life-transforming lessons that tell us how to have eternal life in Jesus Christ. These are words of heavenly wisdom that show us how to have healthy, good relationships with each other. God’s Word is divine revelation telling us how to have peace with God.
We need to start living out the Word of God, not just merely hearing it. What happens, though, when we are merely hearers of the Word?
Not Living the Word has Consequences
James says in verses 23-24, “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. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.” James uses the illustration of looking into a mirror in order to describe what it’s like to be a hearer of the Word and not a doer. When we look at a mirror—and I don’t mean a fun house mirror—we see the truth of who we are. We see our own blemishes. We see our own flaws. We see our own frailties. However, when we walk away from a mirror, we don’t need to acknowledge anything that we previously saw. Rather, we can think of ourselves however we want because the truth of who we we isn’t staring back at us.
When we are a hearer of the Word but not a doer, then we are that person looking in a mirror for a moment and seeing the truth about ourselves (i.e., sinners in need of forgiveness), but then we walk away and no longer acknowledge the truth. As a result, there’s no real transformation. There’s no real impact because we can walk away from hearing the Word and think of ourselves however we choose.
This is how James describes being a hearer of the Word but not a doer, and the consequence is we don’t have a genuine picture of who we are. We live our lives in denial of who we are, and we never really do what we need to do to make the change. We don’t really live for God, we don’t really put our faith in Jesus, and we don’t really love those around us.
We need to not just be hearers of the Word: we need to be doers of the Word. What happens, though, when we are doers of the Word?
The Benefit of Being a Doer
In verse 25, James writes, “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.” James is telling us that the benefit of being a doer of the Word is we have a growing, personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
By living out the Word of God, we are growing in our faith.
By living out the Word of God, we grow in our relationship with God.
By living out the Word of God, we grow in love for God and love for others.
By living out the Word of God, we have an impact on the lives of those around us.
We will know the gospel more, we will show the gospel more, and we will share the gospel more when we are doers of the Word, and God will bless that! We need to be not just hearing the Word of God but doing the Word of God. So, let me bring all this home.
Bringing It Home
Many people often approach the God’s Word—whether it be a sermon, reading the the Scripture, or watching a Bible study on YouTube—the way my wife and I often approach YouTube videos: we let it go in one ear and out the other, and five minutes later, we’ve forgotten what was said. There’s no real impact in our lives or in our journey with Jesus when we do that. It’s as if we’re looking in a mirror then walking away and forgetting what we saw.
We need not be mere hearers, but active doers of the Word. We need to be acting out our faith. I’ve written many articles and filmed multiple videos discussing knowing, showing, and sharing. Being a doer of God’s Word has a direct impact on those three things.
We need to be knowing the Word of God. We need to be knowing Jesus Christ. That means we need to be growing in our relationship with Him.
We need to be showing the Word of God to others. We need to be showing the gospel to others. That means we must be actively serving people, showing them through our actions that we love God and that we love them.
We need to be sharing the good news, sharing the Word of God, sharing the gospel. That means we must be telling people about the good news that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must be evangelizing.
The only way to truly know, show, and share is if we are doers of the Word and not merely hearers. We must stop letting the Word of God go in one ear and out the other, and instead, we must allow it to impact our lives.
How is the Word of God impacting your daily life? How are you doing what’s in the Word of God? Comment below and share your story with others.