Summary: Are you only a listener or the Word or a Doer of the Word?
First Baptist Church
August 26, 2001
Being and Doing
Have you ever wondered where I was headed with my sermons? Sometimes I try to lead us down a certain path, hoping that if I’ve done my job properly, we’ll find the rainbow at the end of the sermon. I have a sense of that, when I read today’s scripture. James begins by writing about our listening skills and anger. This leads him to tell us we should accept the word of God — and ultimately we should be doers of the Word.
It may seem like he’s taking us on a wild goose chase, yet there’s a method to the points he’s making and a very definite plan. So, let’s take a look at what James is trying to teach us and how we can apply God’s Word to become more authentic, more real Christians.
Obviously, those first words from James speak volumes to us. Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. When I meet with couples for premarital counseling, I always talk about those verses. When we follow this prescription we have the opportunity not only to live in harmony with others, but to be a doer of the Word. Usually when we are having a disagreement with someone, we do the opposite of what James is prescribing — we are quick to become angry, quick to speak and slow to listen. Remember those old sayings, "God gave you 2 ears and 1 mouth so you could listen more than you speak,"or "silence is golden, speech is silver."
Firstly, we are to be listeners. Remember the difference between hearing and listening — you all hear me speak, but when you listen you’re absorbing what is being said. You’re not thinking about your grocery list, or what your going to devour at the pot luck, or anything other than the words I’m speaking. That’s listening. It’s an art. Honestly, it is not always that easy to listen to a sermon that lasts more than five minutes. We easily become distracted, that’s why some people say, they become tired from listening. Not tired of listening. Listening takes concentration and what teachers always asked for in school, ‘giving your undivided attention.’
When we listen well, we are slow to speak and are not formulating our next statement. We are not thinking of a comeback in a disagreement we’re in, we’re not cutting off the other person so we can make our point, we’re trying to understand their point, their feelings and beliefs.
James reminds us that we should be slow to become angry. He isn’t telling us that anger is wrong, but the manner in which we display our anger and our reasoning can lead others to look at us as something less than a Christian. We should be angry at injustice and sin, but when we become angry that we aren’t winning an argument, we aren’t showing God’s righteousness.
So what is James recommendation? He bridges the gap between being good listeners and being doers of the Word with a very important statement in verse 21. He tells us to get rid of all that’s wrong in our lives — to get rid of all moral filth and evil that fills our lives so abundantly.
Why should we do that? He gives the answer in the second half of the verse — we should humbly accept the Word of God which has been planted in us so that our souls might be saved. In other words, get rid of the bad in your life and accept the gift of the Word of God, the gift of Jesus, so that you might find salvation for your soul. It’s a vital reminder that we must be in the Word of God. Of course, the only way we can take it in, is to be into the Word — reading, meditating and learning it.
As James leads us down this path, he reminds us that it’s one thing to know the Word, but it’s another thing to do the Word, to live it. He gives us the analogy of a person who looks in a mirror and quickly forgets what they look like.
Mirrors show us what we really look like. When you look into the mirror, you see the brutal truth. We don’t like to acknowledge it. I would like to think I look like I did 20 years ago. Back then, I was a lean, mean, fighting machine. But most mornings I am oblivious to that fact. After a shower I run a towel through my hair and my hair is combed. I quickly check the mirror to make sure I’m clean shaven and that’s my time in front of a mirror. When was the last time you stopped to take a good, long look at your face? I can see old pock marks from pimples, areas that I missed shaving and some things that I don’t like — more gray, less hair, more wrinkles and so on. It’s more comforting to walk away happily thinking that I’m still the lean, mean, fighting machine that I was at 20.