Summary: When we hear what God wants us to be and what he wants us to do in our worship and we do something else, this says that there is a critical "disconnect," a spiritual malfunction.
A man was hired to paint the lines on the highway that divide the lanes. Now the company didn’t have a lot of resources so he had to do his painting on foot. After the first day at work his supervisor was very impressed when he learned that this new employee had painted three miles’ worth of lines.
Unfortunately, the next day his results were not quite as impressive. He was only able to extend the lines for two miles. The third day he only painted less than one mile of lines.
The supervisor went from being impressed to being concerned. He called him into him into his office and said, "I’m going to have to let you go." The employee dropped his head and got up to leave. As he was going out the door he turned and said, "I’ve never worked so hard in all my life! Its just that the paint bucket keeps getting further and further away!"
We laugh at this man’s problem. His problem was that his paint bucket was too far from where he was doing his work! His supply source was too far from where the brush hit the road! What he needed to do was to take the bucket with him! How is it that things can be so glaringly obvious in a story like this and, yet, they can be so hard to see in our own spiritual lives? When we find ourselves reading the bible handed out in S.S. or reading the bible provided in the pew and then not opening our own bibles during the week, are we not working too far from our buckets?
Our passage from this letter from James challenges us this morning. In 1:22 he writes, "But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like."
As I read this text I couldn’t help but think of friends and relatives that slowly lost the connection between the "real world" and their memory and consciousness. There is a very pleasant man who sits on the porch at a nursing home where Janet and I have visited. We often take Samson, our Yorkie terrier, with us. As we walk to the porch with Samson on the leash, the man will say these precise words: "Cute little dog. What’s his name?" We’ll tell him and he’ll repeat it and say, "Cute little dog." When we come back out, he will say again, "Cute little dog. What’s his name?" His brain malfunctions. He can no longer connect one moment to the next!
Perhaps, each of us have our own stories about loved ones that we smile about, but we also know the pain of loving someone who no longer remembers us or many of the special memories that we have shared together. It is a sad thing to lose our history, all the many memories of relationships and shared moments. Sometimes, we may malfunction as we live our lives spiritually disconnected. Apparently, that was true for some of the people to whom James was writing.
There were people in James’ day who were claiming to be followers of Jesus. But, something was lacking that James was addressing in his letter. There was a critical "disconnect," a malfunction, that nullified their claims to be a disciple. What was this "disconnect"? They were hearers of the word and not doers! That’s when the "tilt" buzzer went off for James. This is not being a follower of Jesus. This is not discipleship. This is a serious malfunction! He was saying to himself and to us, "What’s wrong with this picture?" What was wrong is that there was no action!
For believers and followers of Jesus, it is natural, normal and healthy for us to grow in our spiritual lives, which includes both our knowledge and understanding and the way we live and minister to others. James forces us to ask ourselves, Am I growing in Christ, or not? I must ask myself, Do I just blend in and go along with the values of the culture in which I live, or do I make conscious choices about my time and what I do based my Christian faith? James asks us, What difference does your faith make in what you do every day?
James said that to hear the Word of God and not do it was like people who looked in a mirror and looked away and immediately forgot what they were like. We know the sadness of living with someone with Alzheimer’s. What James is describing is like someone trying to be a growing disciple in the Alzheimer’s wing. They look in the mirror. They hear the word of God come to them in worship, preaching, music, scripture, and, then they leave and forget everything they heard, and they live there lives disconnected from what God has shown them.