Study to Grow
By Randy Dillon
James 1:22-27 "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 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; for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the word, this man shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widos in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."
The General Epistle written by James, the younger half-brother of Jesus, is a book about the way in which faith in Christ exhibits itself in our daily behavior. As our previous comments in James pointed out, temptation emanates from the sinful heart of man.
But to resist temptation, one must also
recognize and face squarely one's actions which lead one to succumb to temptation. This involves;
(1) an honest introspection of one's heart and mind,
(2) an acknowledgement of the power of God's law and
(3) actions which confirm both of the above.
James first notes that if a person only "hears" the Word, but does not put the Word into action, that person is self-deceiving. Self-deception is a spiritual miscalculation. It is essentially knowingly believing something that is untrue. To believe a lie as if it is true is to delude oneself or beguile one's conscience. James draws an analogy to a person who looks intently at their face in a mirror and accurately assesses or discerns clearly who he/she really is, but then goes about their daily business immediately forgetting the truth which was self-reflected in the mirror.
On the other hand, one who has perceptively attended to truthful self-inspection looks not into the mirror of self-deception but rather into the "law of liberty" or the "law that gives freedom." This is God's law. It encompasses the moral aspects of the Old Testament, including the Ten Commandments, but also the teachings of Jesus and, after him, also those of Paul. He continues his daily activities looking not to a mirror for guidance but instead to God's law. He is not forgetful of his sins, weaknesses and inadequacies. Instead, he remembers his faults, appreciates what sacrifice Jesus has made for him and then follows-up on those understandings by obedience to God's law and serving other who are in need.
In addition, a faithful Christian such as this is also mindful of his tongue, explicitly controlling it in all situations. This does not mean someone who never engages in conversation, but rather a person who clearly recognizes that words can be uplifting or detrimental, encouraging or deflating, kind or mean spirited. This person also realizes that behavior is borne out of the mouth and the mouth erupts from that which is in the heart. If the heart entertains wickedness, the mouth will give voice to that wickedness and the physical body will eventually act on that voice.
Thus, although one's outward behavior may seem "religious," if the tongue is not "bridled," like the bit of a horse, the deceitful heart will eventually be betrayed by the voice and actions of the hypocrite. His “religion" will be found to be a vanity, useless to himself and those he pretends to care for. How then to measure true faith? James says that "pure religion" which is undefiled (sinless) before God and the Father is to serve those who lack the means of helping themselves. What better people to serve therefore than the fatherless (orphans) and widows who are vulnerable in their lack of daily necessities of life. This is selfless devotion since neither orphans nor widows can repay beneficience in this life.
But God can repay with the treasure of eternal rewards in the next life. Additionally, pure undefiled religion requires a believer to lead a life which is unblemished by the world, By extension, anyone in need or in affliction is worthy of a Christian's assistance. Works based on faith demand that the heart is not held captive by sin, either obvious or hidden. Only a heart dominated by faithful adherence to the law of God can expect to behave in a fruitful manner towards others.