February 1, 2019
James gives us a powerful illustration to ponder as we listen to and read God’s word. I suspect that James speaks of “hearers” because in his time and culture owning a personal copy of the scriptures was cost prohibitive for most Christians. Without a printing press, books had to be copied by hand. To give you an idea of what that means, a scribe can write about 2 characters per second. The four Gospels contain about 320,000 characters. 320,000 characters divided by 2 characters per second leaves a writing time of 160,000 seconds. 160,000 seconds divided by the 3600 seconds in an hour gives you a total 44 hours. And that is just for four books. We live in a time of privilege where physical books and electronic books are available at very reasonable prices. Whether we are hearing the word read in the assembly or we are reading it ourselves in the Bibles we are so privileged to own, the warning and the illustration speaks to us.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 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. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 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. (James 1:22–25, ESV)
We all understand mirrors. We probably looked in one this morning. We look so that we can make adjustments to our appearance. Some may wake up with a bad hair day and attempt to bring order to their hair. Men may shave; women may apply makeup. And none of us want food stuck in our teeth. We would think it odd for a person to look in the mirror, see these defects, and then walk away without correcting them.
In the same way, James wants us to look into the law of liberty. It is like a mirror in that it shows us what we should be as we ponder what we currently are. James says this takes perseverance on our part. But it should lead to us be a doer who acts. As scripture holds up a mirror on our lives, it should lead to correction, just as a mirror in the bathroom leads to corrections in our appearance. Failure to do this is self-deception. Perseverance in doing this will lead to blessing.
Leave a Comment » | Doers, doers of the word, Hearers, James 1:22-25, mirror | Permalink
Posted by Russell Holden
October 5, 2018
The Bible reader must be careful. The message must be properly understood and not distorted. Sometimes passages do need further enlightenment that will change our perspective. This may come from considering all that scripture says on a subject, allowing scripture to interpret scripture. It may arise from new insights gained from history, customs, geography, understanding literary forms, or the biblical languages.
Yet, there is also the danger that we will fail to understand and apply simply because we don’t like what it says—our own willfulness gets in the way. Maybe scripture challenges our beliefs and attitudes, and we shrink away. Søren Kierkegaard told a challenging little parable of $100,000:
Suppose that it was said in the New Testament—we can surely suppose it—that it is God’s will that every man should have 100,000 dollars: Do you think there would be any question of a commentary? Or would not everyone rather say, “It’s easy enough to understand, there’s no need of a commentary, let us for heaven’s sake keep clear of commentaries—they could perhaps make it doubtful whether it is really as it is written. (And with their help we even run the risk that it may become doubtful.) But we prefer it to be as it stands written there, so away will all commentaries!”
But what is found in the New Testament (about the narrow way, dying to the world, and so on) is not at all more difficult to understand than this matter of the 100,000 dollars. The difficulty lies elsewhere, in that it does not please us—and so we must have commentaries and professors and commentaries: for it is not a case of “risking” that it may become doubtful to us, for we really wish it to be doubtful, and we have a tiny hope that the commentaries may make it so.
Let us be careful readers and students of the Bible searching for the truth (see Acts 17:11). Yet, let us not protect our hearts from scripture’s rigorous demands, but allow it to challenge and change us. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, NASB).
Leave a Comment » | Bible reading, doers of the word | Permalink
Posted by Russell Holden