“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
Once again we see how James moves quickly from one subject to another. In this one section James addresses such issues as listening well, speaking with restraint, sinful anger, “rampant wickedness,” the righteousness of God, the sufficiency of Scripture, hearing and doing God’s Word, the liberating law of God, governing our speech, serving the most vulnerable, and pursuing holiness. All in eight verses! However, a pattern can be detected. In the previous section James calls our attention to regeneration: the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God to bring dead sinners to life (vs. 18). In this section he tells us what the regenerated life looks like in this fallen world. In the previous section James anchored our hope in the life to come with the promise of “the crown of life” for all who love the Lord (vs. 12). Now he reminds us of our Christian duty in this present life. In looking to and longing for eternal life in God’s presence we must not fail to be fully present Christians here and now.
For James, Christian maturity is bound up in God’s Word. Of course, like so much of what James writes, he is simply drawing from Jesus’ teaching. Praying for his disciples Jesus said, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). The Christian life is to be characterized by both personal holiness and public righteousness. So, “religion” (vs. 27) that properly abstains from acts of wickedness but fails to act on behalf of the suffering or persecuted is “worthless” (vs. 26). Also worthless is religion that practices great acts of charity but simultaneously makes room for the wickedness that God condemns. A truly integrated Christlikeness is one which both steadfastly resists sin and acts out in love. For James, this is the fruit of both hearing and doing the word of God.