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James 1:24

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 1:24 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
katanoeo [2657] observe fully: behold, discover, consider, perceive gar [1063] verily, therefore, yet, no doubt, as, because that heautou [1438] my-, our-, your-…self or selves (pronoun) kai [2532] and, also, even, so then, too aperchomai [0565] come, go, depart, pass away kai [2532] and, also, even, so then, too euthetos [2112] well placed, good fit epilanthanomai [1950] lose out of mind, forget, neglect hopoios [3697] what kind, what manner of en [2258] I was/were, have, hold, use

1.24.0 Introduction to James 1:24

In verse 22 James contrasted the hearer with the doer. In verse 23 James paints a mental picture of the hearer. Verse 24 explains the relationship between verse 22 and verse 23. Our questions are designed to help us learn more about the art of examination and the subject of forgetfulness.

1.24.1 How do you examine a physical object?

In science class you learn lots of observation methods. Visual appearance is an obvious method. Beyond that, one can examine an object for its physical dimensions, weight, density, chemical and electrical properties, melting or boiling points, flammability, hardness, color, smell, taste, texture and so forth. The list goes on and on.

Ben Franklin proved lightening was a form of electricity with a kite. Edison used electricity to produce light from a light bulb. It took Nikola Tesla to invent electric motors, radar, and high frequency radio transmission such as we use today in everything from remote control toy cars to cell phones. These people did a lot more than look at something, they utilized their skills and talents, built upon their knowledge, experimented, and accomplished things. Any of us can look at a telephone and see the wires and plastic and tiny circuitry. It takes more than observation to build a telephone. You have to take what you’ve observed and do something with it.

In context with our study verse, James is talking about the fellow who looks, but doesn’t do anything about what he sees. The observation is wasted and soon forgotten. James then goes on Verse 25 to contrast the casual observer with the one who acts on his observation. With the contrast James tells us the doer is the one blessed.

Mt 25:42-46 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. Mt 24:45-51 and all of Mt 25 contain a series of examples (servants, virgins, talents, and shepherd) in Jesus’ own words contrasting the doers with the non-doers. In each of the examples given by Jesus, information was given yet ignored and they did as they pleased. In each case the non-doers are promised an ill fate (Mt 24:51, 25:12, 25:30, and 25:46). The doers are credited with righteousness and promised eternal blessings.

1.24.2 How do you examine a person?

Leviticus 13 is a chapter devoted to leprosy and physical medical examination. One point of this passage is the observation of the physical. Another point is the observation is carried out by the priest (representing holiness) on another (representing the “unclean”) and judgment results. The purpose of the judgment may appear to be condemnation, but actually it isn’t at all. The purpose of judging the unclean is to determine the nature of the problem so proper corrective action can be taken. The “clean” are kept from contamination and at the same time the “unclean” is given an opportunity for treatment.

Ezra 10:2 And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, addressed Ezra: “We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. The 10th chapter of Ezra provides a beautiful example of self-examination. Better still, the people deal honestly with themselves and realize their sins, repenting and making drastic life changes to correct their relationship with God.

In context with James 1:24, we need to examine ourselves, admit our sin, do what we can to correct ourselves, and move forward in obedience. If we fail to do these things we fail to be the doer and are like the person who forgets their own reflection. The judgment will come from the Holy One, so wouldn’t it make more sense not only to see the reflection, but to look at the Truth and do what the Truth reveals we ought to do?

1.24.3 What can a face tell you?

Gen 4:5-6 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? A person’s expression says a great deal about what is going on in their mind. God alone knows the heart, but a man reveals his heart to other men (just as Cain does here) when his expression reacts from his heart.

Ro 16:18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. We have all heard the saying “appearances can be deceiving.” There are dozens of examples of deception in scripture. How could so many be deceived? For one thing, the expression on the face doesn’t always tell the truth any more than the words proceeding from the mouth. Secondly, many times the deceived don’t look closely enough at the deceptive information or the deceiver. In this particular passage Paul indicates the deceived person is naïve. Throughout scripture and particularly in New Testament letters we are warned about deceivers and given clear instructions about discernment. A face may betray a lie, but you have to be looking closely to have a chance of detecting it.

Ex 34:29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. Just as a face can betray deceit, it can also be a beacon to illuminate joy. People with a good heart tend to radiate a spiritual light. Some folks see this in what is described as auras, but even without that degree of sight we can see the fruit of the Spirit and the joy inside the doer of those fruit is nearly always visible on their face.

1.24.4 What should you be looking for in a mirror?

Mt 5:17-20 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. A mirror is a tool for self-examination. James uses it to illustrate a superficial self-examination in Verse 24. In this passage Jesus tells the believers to be doers, following the commandments and laws of God. Teachers use words, but people learn from examples. Jesus condemned the scribes and Pharisees as bad examples and lousy teachers, but those who obey and do what God instructs will teach others by good example and ultimately will be called great in heaven. In answer to the question, then, one should be reflecting in their heart about their life and setting themselves straight – not just superficially looking at a literal mirror with the vanity ascribed to religious leaders.

1.24.5 What is the impact of forgetfulness?

Eze 23:35 Therefore thus says the Lord God: Because you have forgotten me and cast me behind your back, you yourself must bear the consequences of your lewdness and whoring. Forgetfulness has consequences.

Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. Forgetfulness is life threatening.

1.24.6 How can you improve your memory (retention)?

Jer 31:33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. As a forgetful person I’ve learned the necessity for crutches. The advent of the PDA has substantially improved my life. I now have a repository for remembering events, contact information, and lists of all kinds. I’m not a list maker, so learning about lists has been revolutionary for me. I write these things down in the PDA and it remembers them. In the eternal scheme of things, most of what I put in the PDA has no real significance. God is eternal, as is His word. For it to be eternal to me personally it must be written in my mind and heart. To accomplish this I open my heart to Jesus, trusting Him and letting the Spirit enter. I also read my bible with regularity and intensity. I humbly attempt to live a life directed by the Spirit, obeying as best I can with the flesh and using the knowledge provided by His Word. People learn by several methods and it is invariable most effective when multiple methods are used in concert. The simplest way I can explain is that first we must receive the information (hear/read/observe). The next step is to confirm we heard correctly by repeating it back (writing or telling). Finally, apply the tactile technique (do it – practice makes perfect).

1.24.7 Why would someone forget what they look like?

Job 14:1-4 Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble. He comes out like a flower and withers; he flees like a shadow and continues not. And do you open your eyes on such a one and bring me into judgment with you? Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one. Sometimes you want to forget. Job asks who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean. In answer to his question, no man can cleanse him but Christ. Job said in this passage he realized his impurity by the perfect standard of God. Job’s friends sang from Satan’s handbook, telling him he was unworthy and sinful, therefore God had retracted from Job. If you look closely, though, you’ll see Job isn’t blaming God or turning from Him. On the contrary, Job is acknowledging his own position relative to God. How much easier is it in our minds today to be as Job’s friends and pick what appears on the surface to make more sense? Sometimes it certainly seems God has forgotten us when, especially when we feel unworthy. When we feel unclean before the Lord we often seek to hide ourselves as Adam tried to hide in the Garden (Gen 3:8). When we know we are sinful we want to forget the sin. If we appear sinful in our own eye, what better reason could there be to want to forget our appearance?

1.24.8 How does being a hearer only relate to forgetting your face?

Gen 2:16-17 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” In this passage Adam hears the instructions not to eat of the tree and the consequences if he does.

Gen 3:6-8 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Adam heard only. He wasn’t a “doer” of what he heard. His consequence: Spiritual death and a start to physical decay leading eventually to a physical death.

2 Jn 6-9 And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. John confirms the principle in this reminder to heed the commandments. He says be a doer and don’t forget the message – the true Word. John reminds us of the consequence of forgetting the message: loss of reward (eternal life, presumably) and not having the Son or the Father.