Summary: God calls His people to take seriously the instruction of the Word. In fact, He calls us to be fanatics for the Faith.
FANATICS FOR THE FAITH
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
“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 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. 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.
“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
Christians who take seriously the instruction of Scripture are considered fanatics by those who are casual about the Faith. Tepid faith has become de rigueur in too many religious circles. Modern evangelicals are expected to be religious, but they must not be overly committed to the Faith. In fact, those Christians who are openly committed to discovering the will of God and then doing what God wills are considered fanatics by those among us who are of tepid faith and commitment.
Recently, the founding pastor of one of the largest church movements in modern evangelicalism made a stunning admission. This greatly adulated pastor confessed that the “seeker sensitive” movement did not build strong Christians. What this pastor had done was create a setting that brought large crowds into a religious setting where many did, indeed, profess to believe the message of Faith. However, those professing the Faith were incapable of building themselves up in the Faith. In essence, a significant number of worshippers were unchanged other than being entertained in a religious setting. I am not saying that these people were unsaved, but they give scant evidence of the transformational power of the Indwelling Spirit of God.
James was concerned that those to whom he wrote lived as children of the Living God. He was concerned that they not be merely religious, but that they should be righteous. James’ words are pointed as he confronts the attitudes that are casually dismissed even among God’s professed people, calling all who name the Name of Christ the Lord to practical holiness.
By the standard of this world, James is demanding that Christians become fanatics for the Faith. By the standard of God’s Word, however, James calls on Christians to begin living the normal Christian life. In a similar manner, each of us is faced with the call to choose whether we will be complacent Christians that never disturb anyone with our Faith and that are never challenged by those about us to defend why we live as we do, or whether we will be fanatical about righteousness.
CATEGORIES OF THE FAITHFUL — Modern Christians are great for categorising one another. We differentiate on the basis of sex, on economic status, on racial and cultural bases, on educational levels, and any of a number of other criteria. Though the Word of God does not permit us to discriminate or show partiality, it is obvious from even a casual review of our text that God distinguishes between those who are hearers of the Word and those who are doers of the Word.
Understand that we are speaking about Christians—people who profess knowledge of Christ the Lord. We are speaking about people who would claim to have been born from above. And when we speak of hearers of the Word, we are speaking of individuals who may be quite knowledgeable of what the Bible says. They may well have read the Bible through in its entirety—repeatedly! It is quite possible that they serve in various voluntary positions within a church—sitting on boards and making decisions that affect the life of the Body. However, they are hearers, and not doers.
Also bear in mind that James speaks of Christians whose lives are defined by and characterised by a distressing degree of anger. These Christians, unlike those who are following hard after God, are slow to hear, quick to speak and quick to anger. They are so focused on their own wants that they fail to consider what God may desire. Things just never seem to work out as they want, and they grow frustrated, and their frustration quickly turns to anger. Full of anger, they are incapable of producing the righteousness God requires. In the grip of their anger, they are easily contaminated with filthiness and rampant wickedness, because they are unable to receive the implanted Word.