Mirror mirror on the wall, why must I look at you at all? Okay, let’s just get to it…”Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.’ James 1:22-25 NIV
Reading through this section I have to laugh, again, at how perfect James paints an illustration where I can relate. I can only speak for myself here, but I am not a fan of mirrors. I’m not really sure where this dislike for them originated, but nonetheless I’m not a fan. I am your atypical ‘glancer’. I glance quickly to make sure my outfit looks all right. I throw my hair up in some fashion and glance quickly to see that it doesn’t look too awful. And on the occasion that I put on make-up I don’t use a mirror at all. I’ve never really gotten caught up in how I look – not that this is a good thing – just one of my silly quirks. So I fully understand what James is talking about here. I look so quickly in and out of the mirror that I really don’t have a clue when I walk away of what I really look like. But I love this analogy because if we want to evaluate how we look our number one tool for doing that is by using a mirror. There is no real way to assess our appearance any other way. If I want to make sure my hair looks cute, my teeth are free of debris, that my skirt isn’t riding too high or if I need to get something out of my eye – I only have one recourse. We can go for a while avoiding mirrors, but eventually – we need to take that time to get things in check. God’s word, as James points out here, operates in very much the same way. If we think of His word as a mirror – it too is something that we peer into in order to see ourselves as we really are and we use it to adjust things so they are better. Knowing this, there are times that we want to just take a quick glance and keep going because if we look too closely we may see that we are not matching up to what is in His word. Or we may take the time to read – checking it off our list – but then walk away and live our lives the exact same way we did before we read – forgetting what we read almost instantly. Nothing changes, nothing is convicted and therefore nothing is altered, and very often we forget what we read anyway. I have to quote commentator, Warren Weirsbe, here – “If we are to use God’s mirror profitably, then we must gaze into it carefully and with serious intent. No quick glances will do. We must examine our own hearts and lives in the light of God’s Word. This requires time, attention, and sincere devotion.’ I think sometimes the reason that we only glance at God’s word is because we are afraid of what we might see. Because, as James says here, we can’t just read the word, we can’t even just hear the word, we MUST do what it says. I don’t know about you, but I feel the Lord convicting me more and more to search His word and let it become a part of whom I am. I am so guilty though of not taking the necessary time that might require. I make excuses; I give into distractions (sleep, schedules, laziness…) and don’t take that sweet time alone with Him. That is part of my challenge in this time, I think, to push myself to be in His word, to let it speak to me, to let it cast a light on areas of my life that needs altering, to have it push me, refine me and even encourage me.
This section of scripture really does feel like James is giving a lesson in simple math. Let’s break down what he’s saying here…
‘Do not merely listen to the word’ – There is more required to time in the Word than just hearing it preached on Sunday or by influential speakers. There is more required than just quickly reading through it on your own. More is required, but what?
‘Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves’ – If you just listen to a great podcast or make your way into a church building come Sunday morning – you are lying to yourself if you think that is going to ‘fix’ what’s stirring in your heart or even take you further in your walk with Christ. If you quickly read a few verses from your Bible or read through a powerful devotional and then go about your day without giving it any more thought – you are deceiving yourself to think that your life, troubles, relationships, experiences will be effected and impacted for Christ. If you think the checklist of listening and reading is good enough – you are lying to yourself.
‘Do what it says.’ – Short of grabbing a bottle of white out or scrolling quickly past this 4 word sentence on your phone…there is no way to misinterpret the meaning here. Don’t just listen, don’t just read…DO what it says. If we want to find peace through the storms and trials that come – we can read the Bible until we’re blue in the face and we won’t be able to weather the winds of those storms any better. Until we DO what His word says…Cast our cares on Him; trust in the Lord with all our heart; lay our sacrifice on the altar and go reconcile…we have to put what we read, what we hear into action in our lives. We HAVE to let His word – which is alive and active and living – transform our lives, our hearts, our attitudes, our words, our reactions, our emotions, our concerns…everything. Otherwise – we are lying to ourselves. Glory.
And then in case we are a little slow, stubborn (or not really listening to His word to begin with) he breaks it down just a little bit more. ‘Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in the mirror’ – now let’s stop here. Can we take a quick lesson from this man? He goes immediately to an example that not one single soul (short of some third world remote individuals) is unable to relate. Have you ever tried to explain your faith or your love for Christ and felt yourself get a little preachy or felt you had to articulate in some huge way? James is shooting that approach right in the foot. He’s bringing the gospel…Christ’s desire is that we understand Him and that He be accessible to us is so that He can in fact change our lives. He puts it in terminology and gives examples that we can immediately relate to and understand. What a fabulous example for us as we seek to bring people to the thrown of God! We can relate to looking in a mirror. We can feel the insecurities of what we see when we look in and how that affects the way we look in the mirror or the length of time. Instantly we are drawn into that emotion and experience – oh that we can speak the gospel with such transparent speech.
‘…and after looking at himself, immediately goes away and forgets what he looks like.’ If we immediately forget…did we really soak it in? Did we really ask ourselves the questions of how the verses could apply to our lives? Did we see hope and want to praise the Lord? Did we come away with questions and continually talk to Him throughout the day looking for answers? Were we challenged to go love, to go forgive, to ask for forgiveness, to let go, to turn away? If none of those things happened – what were we doing?
‘But whoever looks intently…’
* Firmly fixed; concentrated
* Having the mind and will focused on a specific purpose – Oh! To look at His word like that…may that be our prayer!
‘…into the perfect law that gives freedom…’ – note it doesn’t say ‘that gives you lists and lists of rules that you must adhere to’; it doesn’t say ‘that is hard to understand and leaves you frustrated and confused’; it doesn’t say ‘that is just fluff with no real purpose or meaning’ – NO – it says ‘that gives FREEDOM’ – why are we skipping over this so quickly? Why aren’t our quiet times more intentional and focused? Why do we hope the morsels tossed at us on Sundays will be enough to keep us fed throughout the week? His word gives freedom.
‘…not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it’ – yes, he’s clearly already said this, but isn’t repetition the father of learning? In other words…he’s trying to drive home a lesson here!
Looking intently + the perfect law that gives freedom + continually doing this + not forgetting + DOING it = being ‘blessed in what they do’. Simple math that we WAY overcomplicate.
When is the last time you sat gazing into His Word? More then just listening to His Word – what is He is calling you to DO? What is causing you to forget; what is preventing you from doing?
My prayer for Today…
Lord, I love reading your word. I love how practical and identifiable you drive your message home. I confess that these verses hit a nerve in me Lord. Far far too often I merely glance at your word – and think that the tidbit of truth I consume will be enough to hold me for long periods of time. I read, but then trials come up and suddenly the truth of your love, your plan for me, your grace, your magnitude suddenly jump out of my head and I forget how big of a God you are. Forgive me Lord for my pride – thinking I can manage any portion of my life without having you intentionally guiding my steps. Forgive me for my arrogance – thinking that ‘good enough’ is what you’ve called me to . Forgive me for knowing the things you’ve called me to do, but for a slue of reasons, I just don’t do them. Lord – it is so clear here . May I dive deeper into your word. May I realize it will be the answer to all of my ‘what if’ questions, it will give me the direction I seek, it will affirm your love for me. But then once I take that time, may I actually DO what it says I should do. Thank you for the simplicity. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for my friend here – may they look intently on you and do what your words says, as well. We love you so preciously! – Amen