We have grown up with the analogy that if someone plants a grape seed, it will produce a grapevine not a watermelon vine. Accordingly, we have argued that if we will just preach the original message, it will produce only one crop – the community of Christ as it was intended to be. While there is validity to this, the epistle of James can add a level of sophistication to our thinking for it teaches that two fundamentally different groups of people can result from listening to the same message.
That’s right, as incredible as it may seem, when the Word of God is poured out that message finds itself running off into two different camps: those who are blessed and those who are deluded. To give James’ message a concrete modern application, he claimed that it is possible for some of those who enter the assembly each Lord’s day to listen to a faithful proclamation of God’s Word to be blessed, while others who may sit right beside them and who may consider themselves blessed by God are actually deluded. So why are some deceived and others blessed?
But be doers of the word and not merely hearers who delude themselves. James 1:22
The watershed of scripture is whether that message is actually put into practice.
The old problem James is addressing can still infect our lives. Sometimes people who know that God’s Word is truth will place their confidence upon their knowledge of that truth. They might be able to expound upon any topic accurately, but if they are not actively doing what scripture teaches, their confidence is misguided. Scripture is intended to shape how God’s people actually live, make decisions, interact with others and worship. A faith which merely centers around believing true doctrine is dead. James 2:26 Do not misunderstand, it is imperative for faith to be built upon a correct understanding (1 Tim. 4:16; 2 Tim. 2:2; 4:3-4), but that faith must also shape what that person does.
James provides us with some blunt examples, “do you believe that there is one God? You are doing well but the demons also believe and tremble.” James 2:20 “If anyone thinks he is religious, but does not restrain his tongue his heart is deluded, this persons’s religion is worthless. Pure and faultless religion before God our Father is this, to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1:26
Not just in these matters, but in response to all of scripture’s messages for us let us be doers of that message and not merely hearers who delude themselves.