Don’t Deceive Yourself

James 1:22 ESV … “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

If the Word implanted is dynamic, working salvation, it is imperative that believers do what the Word says (the verse in Gk. reads lit., “Become doers of the word and not only hearers, deceiving yourselves”). Certainly, there is a sense of development or growth here. Being doers of the Word involves becoming,113 but the force here is in being who one is because the Word is resident within. Disciples are to “receive” the Word of God by “being” believers who do what that Word requires. In 4:11 James used a similar phrase, “doer of the law” (NIV “keeping it”), which shows the interchangeableness of Word and law in Christ (cf. 1:25). This matter of being a doer (cf. 2:7; 5:14) captures James’s burden for his hearers.

Disciples cannot be hearers only, like those in the parable of the sower (Matt 13:3–9) who have no rooting of the Word. The problem of self-deception recurs here. Believers can act against the Word of God and sin. Yet they simply must do what it says. For James, fruit must be produced, that is, acts of mercy. Hearing, listening to the Word of God, is right, but it can become wrong when another type of self-deception arises. Doing what Scripture says is not a question of acting quickly or slowly but acting at all. To be a hearer or to have faith only (cf. 2:24) is self-deceiving. Faith must be demonstrated (cf. 3:13), and to miss this is a fundamental flaw in understanding. No one who has called upon God for wisdom can or should think undemonstrated faith is true. James used exhortation then to point out how easily his hearers could fall from the wisdom they required to live out true faith through action. Knowledge by itself only “puffs up” (1 Cor 8:1).[1]




[1] Richardson, K. A. (1997). James (Vol. 36, pp. 94–95). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

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