Doing versus Hearing

Jane Olson

READ : James 1:19-27

Being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (v. 25)

Every athlete knows the importance of drills. During practice, basketball players shoot endless free throws. That way, when game time comes players can count on muscle memory to help them perform under pressure.

Here James reminds us of the importance of being doers of the word, not merely hearers. It's one of his favorite themes. The passage poses an important question: Are we living in such a way that our behavior is consistent with the faith that we profess?

James uses an interesting analogy to express this idea. A person who merely hears the Word of God but does not live it out is like someone who forgets his own reflection the second he walks away from a mirror. Such a person doesn't have lasting faith. Whatever faith he has is temporary and conditional—it will not hold up under duress.

James says that if we hear the word and then live by it, we will “be blessed in [our] doing.” Our actions prove that we have taken the gospel seriously—that we are staking our lives on it. Moreover, practicing our faith through love and service to others trains our hearts in a new kind of muscle memory. That way, whatever we may be personally experiencing, showing God's grace to others will be instinctive. It's a pretty basic challenge: let the gospel shape my daily life.


Lord, show me how to put your word into practice today.