Summary: Are we just hearers of the Word, or are we doers?
Living Out God’s Word
James 1: 19-27
Let me start by going back to Jesus’. Let us start with Jesus’ advice to his disciples. In Mark 9:33 onwards he finds out that the disciples have been arguing about who is the greatest. And his advice is simple. Mark 9:35 (NKJV) And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, "If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.".
This month we are studying the book of James. The Book of James is a classic case of the first becoming the last. Historians record that the Book of James is most probably the very first New Testament book to be written. Studies show that is was probably written as early as AD45. That makes it the very first New Testament book to be written. However, it took a long time for this book to be included in the New Testament. Studies reveal that only somewhere between AD325 and AD393 this book was admitted as canonical. Remember that the first canon was accepted in AD170. There are many reasons quoted for the non-inclusion of the book of James in the first canon. It is a book of non-theological nature, was one of them. Anyways, the book of James was not a popular book. Even leaders like Martin Luther did not accept the book of James. Of course the resistance from Martin Luther (and many others) could be from the mistaken notion that this book opposes the doctrine of justification by faith and not by works as taught by Paul. That misunderstanding has cleared up a lot in recent times with many studies and arguments showing that James was not proposing a different doctrine, but was only highlighting the fact that good works were the genuine proof that one had faith and could therefore be assured of justification.
Despite this, the book of James is still not a popular book. To me, the reason is clear. The Book of James is not philosophical, it is not academic, it is not charismatic, it is not a theologian’s dream, it is just all about action. This focus on action is not liked by many. And we will see the reasons as we go along this sermon. In the corporate world where I come from, there is joke, that people who cannot do business very well ultimately end up as consultants and trainers. Now, don’t ask me how or why I became a trainer. I am not going to give you an answer. The fact is this. It is easy to preach something, it is easy to listen to a sermon, but it is not easy to be action focused.
The passage that was read to us (James 1:19-27) starts off with some good advice about listening, rather than speaking. It implores us to be slow to anger. It asks us to control our blind passions. However the central theme of the passage is this James 1:22 (NKJV) But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Or as the message bible puts it James 1:22 (MSG) Don't fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear!. This is a message that many do not like to hear. It is easy for us to sit down and listen to a good sermon, but it is very difficult to put some of that into practice. And this is not a new problem. This problem is ages old. In Ezekiel 33:31 (NKJV) the Lord says, So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain.