Jas 1:23-25 “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 work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”
It is a great blessing to be able to truly listen to instruction and encouragement. If we cannot listen to instruction, then it is difficult (if not impossible) to know how to do a task, when to do it, or why it should be done. If we are not able to listen to encouragement, then we may grow weary of the task and stop short of completion. Being able to listen to the word of God is a blessing of great magnitude. It teaches us about things that exceed the mortal and brings a greater depth of meaning to everything we do. This word not only encourages the mind, but also the soul, to labor and faint not.
The word translated as “hearer” carries the idea of “merely hearing (see Strong’s).” If our only goal in hearing the word of God is just to hear then we have missed the purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The grace of His teaching should motivate us to live “soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world (Tit 2:12).” It is interesting to note that the word translated as “doer” also means “poet.” One who is a poet is “the inventor or maker of a metrical composition (Webster’s Dictionary of American English 1828).” In other words, he takes words and puts them in order so that there is a flow or recognizable pattern; he does something with the words he hears.
When we are truly paying attention to the word of God in our lives, we are going to take those words and use them to invent a pattern of godly living. To fail to do so is to fail to recognize what we are by nature and what He has called us to be by grace. We look in the mirror, see our reflection, then walk away and almost immediately forget what kind of person we are.
When I look in the mirror today, I literally see an older man with greying (and thinning) hair, a grey beard, and several wrinkles (and thankfully, a lot of “laugh lines”). But when I turn away from that mirror and go about my daily responsibilities, I soon forget that face and in my mind I am a much younger me (at least until my body reminds me that my face is not the only thing that has aged). The man in the mirror says I should know better than to think I can still do all the things the man in the mirror could do 40 years ago, but I walk away from the mirror and I forget that.
Looking into the perfect law of liberty implies being more than a hearer. The word translated as “looketh” means “to bend beside, that is, lean over (so as to peer within)” according to Strong’s. It is not merely hearing; there is an effort and intensity implied that goes beyond just listening. It requires us to recognize that the law of liberty is complete; that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2Co 3:17). However, it is not enough just to look with intensity.
We are instructed to look into this perfect law of liberty and continue (to stay near, that is, remain (literally tarry; or figuratively be permanent, persevere [see Strong’s]) in it. We are not to be removed from this law of liberty, for it shows us who we are in Christ Jesus. This is the manner of man we need to remember. We do that by becoming a poet (doer) and setting the meter (flow) of our lives to the law of liberty found in our Lord and Master. The hearing of the word should compel us to remain in the word. Remaining in the word, we become a doer of the work in which the word instructs us, and we will be blessed in our action.
May we all exercise the law of liberty we have been given to the end that we never forget who we are in Christ and act accordingly!