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. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:22-27 ESV)
James is also saying that we shouldn’t deceive ourselves: That phrase means to deliberately mislead yourself. You think you have a relationship with God because you have heard the word. A Scottish preacher warns us here when he mentions “sermon tasters who have never tasted the grace of God.”
Verses 23-25 contain a comparison metaphor between those who look on the word with understanding minus action against those who look on the word with understanding and action. The one who acts gets blessing. The one who walks away gets nothing. So then what does it look like to be a doer of the word? Verses 26-27 give us three things that demonstrate how the doer of the word lives. The (religion that is pure, or the worshipper of Jesus, or the one who truly honors God and Helps people) the doer of the word…
- Controls his tongue: ‘Bridle your tongue’ carries the idea of holding something back that could get away from you. That means you keep your mouth under control. The most extensive treatment of this idea is in James 3, but this isn’t keep your mouth shut Sunday, it’s Orphan Sunday, so we will move on to the second aspect of being a doer of the word. The doer of the word…
- Cares for orphans and widows. Why is this a part of doing the word?
- This is a part of doing the word because God’s love for the orphan is all over the word.
- He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. (Deuteronomy 10:18 ESV)
- Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. (Psalm 68:5 ESV)
- The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. (Psalm 146:9 ESV)
- Because God cares how we care for those whom the world says are not valuable. You see, the temptation is to care for those who can take care of us (James 2: 1-7). James knew that would be a temptation. You care for rich people because they have influence that might lessen your persecution. If you care for a widow who has nothing and no one, or an orphan who has nothing and has no one, there will be no power coming your way. There will be no influence and ease coming your way. That seems crazy to us, as we are influenced by the world’s system and ideas which brings us to the third characteristic of the doer of the word: The doer of the word…
- Keeps themselves unstained by the world. Now, be careful here.
- Not: Doesn’t do a list of worldly things. That is different for everyone. For some people playing cards is worldly. For others, certain kinds of music is worldly. For others, watching television is worldly. For some people, if a woman wears pants, it’s worldly. That is not what James is talking about here.
- Is: The idea of being unstained by the world means (Doug Moo) to avoid thinking and acting in accordance with the value system around us. That means we value what God values. It means we love what God loves and pursue what God pursues. It means we don’t store up treasure on the earth by getting bigger, better, newer and more. It means we spend our time, talent and treasure on the kingdom of God, honoring him and helping people, specifically, as we are speaking today, the orphan.
As you look at all three of these things, remember that they are ongoing. This is not a checklist that you will arrive at one day when you are a varsity Christian. There, I am always Godly with my speech, I adopted a kid from Africa and I only listen to Christian radio. BAM, doer of the word. These are a continual application of Scripture in your life and calling as a believer and covenant member of this church.