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James 1:22

22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. — KJV

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it–he will be blessed in what he does. — NIV

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. — ESV

Greek Transliteration of James 1:22 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
ginomai [1096] to become… de [1161] and, but, now… (conjunction) poietes [4163] a performer, poet logos [3056] word, something said, communication, divine expression of Christ kai [2532] and, also, even, so then, too me [3361] not, no, none, never monon [3440] merely: alone, but, only akroates [0202] a hearer paralogizomai [3884] misreckon, delude, beguile, deceive heautou [1438] my-, our-, your-…self or selves (pronoun)

1.22.0 Introduction to James 1:22

This verse launches the next-to-last paragraph in the first chapter, but one could say it is the launching pad for the balance of the book. The book of James is generally considered the most practical book on Christian living in the New Testament and this verse is often cited as the reason why. It is interesting to note KJV and ESV use nearly identical language (KJV adds a “ye” that isn’t in the Greek) and NIV, though it structures the sentence a little differently, conveys a message which appears almost transparently the same. It says to do, not just hear. Hearing is good, but hearing without doing is empty and worse, it is self deception. Questions generated by this verse allow us to examine doers and hearers and finally, to look at why hearers only are deceiving themselves.

1.22.1 What does it mean to be a doer of the word?

Gal 5:18-21 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Like James, Paul also sometimes uses stark contrasts to make a point clear. In this passage Paul leads in to the answer to our question by first describing a doer not of the word. Even before this Paul talks about the law and how those lead by the Spirit are not under the law. Old Testament thinking was you either were obedient to the law or you were not. Paul artfully explains in this passage, however, the real issue isn’t obedience to law, but rather it is a matter of whether you are lead by the Spirit of God or your own mortal and sinful flesh and its desires.

Gal 5:22-24 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. This section of the passage, better known to many Christians, provides the positive side of Paul’s contrast. It lists for us the spiritual fruit borne by the Spirit in the life of one lead by the Spirit. Anyone born again will not be able to prevent these fruit, nor will anyone living in the flesh be able to produce these fruit in true purity.

1.22.2 What do doers do?

Mt 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. The Great Commission is important and not to be forgotten. It does not, however, exist in a vacuum.

Mt 22:37-40 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Whereas the reference above is called “The Great Commission,” I would call this passage “The Great Compassion.” Doers love God and other people. It is important to note this kind of love is an action verb. It means paying attention to and caring for others – in other words: demonstrating compassion. It involves personal humility and kindness, particularly toward children and those who have greater needs in this world.

Ro 2:1-5 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who do such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. Doers repent from the heart without regard to others’ outward acts and without passing judgment. Doers ensure their own house is in order before they take the position of correcting others.

Mt 12:37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. Doers do speak, but they speak as bid by the Spirit rather than their own unbridled tongue.

Jas 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. [Note: alternate translation – the effective prayer of a righteous person has great power] Further on in the study we will examine this passage more carefully. For now the simple point is this: doers pray.

1.22.3 How can we be doers?

Lk 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Jesus commands us to lower ourselves and submit to His sovereign authority. The wonderful kingdom (1 Pe 2:9) is yet to come. For now, there is work to be done (Mt 9:37) and it isn’t glamorous. To be a doer, just listen to the prompting voice of the Spirit and obey (Jn 14:26).

1.22.4 What kind of people are doers?

Jn 3:21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God. The people in the light are the doers. They cannot hide (Lk 8:16-17). They do many things and can be described in many ways. I know of no better way to identify them collectively.

1.22.5 Are you a doer?

This is a question we all must answer – sooner or later.

1.22.6 How can someone be a hearer only?

Rev 3:1-3 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. The word “reputation” is key here. Some people appear to be Godly, doing good deeds, but for the wrong reasons. Such people therefore are dead inside, as Paul explains to Timothy (2 Tim 3:5)

1.22.7 What prevents a hearer from being a doer?

Mt 21:21-22 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” It all boils down to faith. Do you believe it, or not?

1.22.8 Is there anything wrong with being a hearer?

Mt 11:15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear. This is the first of 15 times this phrase (or a variation of this phrase) appears in the New Testament. In fact, it also appears in Eze 3:27. Clearly it is crucial we hear. By no means should one interpret from James it is wrong to listen. Hearing God is one of the most important things we can ever do and one of the greatest privileges of having the Spirit dwell within us. We fall short only when we fail to act obediently on what we hear.

1.22.9 Is it easier to be a hearer than a doer?

If it were easier to be a doer why are there so many instructions in scripture about what to do? That said, you could argue this either way. I believe it is up to the individual. Ultimately, for a non-believer or one who is jaded it becomes easier to hear than do. I’ve often heard it is easier to do it right the first time. Taking the lazy route just means more work later. For those under conviction it can be much harder to be idle. Ultimately whether it is harder or easier is irrelevant.

1.22.10 Why does a hearer only deceive himself?

Ro 2:13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. Being a hearer only just isn’t enough.

Mt 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. One who fails to obey the Lord looses. Adam and Eve couldn’t hide from God. Neither can we. To believe otherwise is self-deception and spiritually sickening. The one who does what they hear is the person Jesus blesses in this reference from the beatitudes.