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James 1:19 - 27: Don’t Just Listen – Do!

 He brought us to life using the true Word,
showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.
In simple humility, let our gardener, God,
landscape you with the Word,
making a salvation-garden of your life.

James 1:18, 21 MSG


Shortly after the new year, I started a personal study of James specifically because it focuses on wisdom for daily living. There is a link at the top of the blog to find earlier posts. I hope you’ll join me as I dive into a section of James each week.

Salvation in the Word

Consequently, faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ.

Romans 10:17 NET

You have been reborn—not from seed that eventually dies but from seed that is eternal—through the word of God that lives and endures forever. For as Isaiah said,

All life is like the grass,
    and its glory like a flower;
The grass will wither and die,
    and the flower falls,
But the word of the Lord will endure forever.

This is the word that has been preached to you.

1 Peter 1:23 -25 VOICE

James emphasizes in 1:18 that our new birth comes through the Word of God. Then in verse 21, he reiterates that the Word is planted in us. This planting reminds me of the prophecy in Jeremiah. God says, “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” The planting also reminds me of the parable of the soils in Jesus’ own teaching. He taught, “The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” We can imagine that James had this lesson in mind when he wrote that we should be doers of the Word to produce a spiritual harvest!

The Word Planted in our Hearts

When the Word of God is planted, James says we receive, accept, and even welcome it! Thayers Lexicon says of the Greek word translated there, “to receive favorably, give ear to, embrace, make one’s own, approve, not to reject.”

James builds on this idea of giving an ear to, not just to listen, but to “do” the Word of God! This is one of the more memorable sayings from James where I revert to the good King James, right? Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only!

Doing God’s Word

What does it mean to be doers of the Word of God? Do you ever glance in a mirror only to ignore the smudge on your face or the hair out of place? If so, glancing in the mirror was ineffective and useless. And so it is with the Word of God. We don’t just glance at it, walking away from it, without applying what we read. To do so would be foolish on our part. To listen implies to heed the Word!

James gives three examples of doing God’s Word. These are not prescriptive here but descriptive of our faith in action.

He tells us to choose our words carefully, to care for the marginalized in society, and to resist temptation. Let’s look briefly at each of those through the lens of scripture. James’ words echo the heart of the whole admonition of scripture:

Choose Our Words Carefully

But the things that come out of your mouth—your curses, your fears, your denunciations—these come from your heart, and it is the stirrings of your heart that can make you unclean.

Matthew 15:18 VOICE

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

Ephesians 4:29 NLT

When you speak, make sure it’s always full of grace, and well flavoured with salt! That way you’ll know how to give each person an appropriate answer.

Colossians 4:6 NTE

Care for the Marginalized in Society

Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

Isaiah 1:17 ESV

You shall be richly rewarded, for when I was hungry, you fed Me. And when I was thirsty, you gave Me something to drink. I was alone as a stranger, and you welcomed Me into your homes and into your lives.

Matthew 25:35 VOICE

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.

1 John 3:16-18 NLT

Resist Temptation

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Romans 12:2 NLT

Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

Ephesians 6:11 NET

But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.

1 Peter 1:16-17 NLT


Father, you who writes your story on our hearts
Planting Your seed in the soil of our lives,
Cause that seed to flourish in good soil,
Developing in us strong roots
Fully established in your kingdom,
Building us up in You,
That we might actively listen,
Doers of Your Word,
Overflowing with thankfulness,
So that we will be blameless in Your sight on that last day
In the power of Your Spirit for Your name’s sake.

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