Book of James – Hearers and Doers
Lesson Four looks at James 1:9-22. In this passage James covers humility, prosperity, trials, behavior and the subject of Hearers and Doers. In the first eight verse, James set a foundation of faith and steps of action for the new believers. He emphasized faith, perseverance, how to handle trials, and much more.
There is no lack of content in James’ writing!
“When down-and-outers get a break, cheer! And when the arrogant rich are brought down to size, cheer! Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don’t ever count on it. You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that’s a picture of the “prosperous life.” At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing.
Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.
Don’t Succumb to Pressure
Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, “God is trying to trip me up.” God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one’s way. The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer.
So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.
Act on What You Hear
Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.” James 1:9-24 The Message
Trials and Rich People
I chose to use the Message Translation here because, like James, it is to-the-point. Prosperity. This word has been used, misused and overused. In verses 9-11, James is addressing the futility of depending on your prosperity to get you anywhere. It can be here today and gone tomorrow and should not be a source of pride! He is letting us know that there are things which are much deeper, lasting and vital than prosperity. Money is great and we all need it. However, in the hard, dark times of life, money cannot buy true peace, love, or friendship.
Verse 12 goes back to James’ previous message regarding enduring trials and hardships. I have never been ‘wealthy’ in the sense of being a millionaire so I can only imagine what it feels like. I do know how it feels to have very little and suddenly find yourself with nothing. It is very, very hard to endure. All kinds of feelings spring up out of that situation. Based on that, I truly can’t imagine what it would be like to be a millionaire one moment and be destitute the next! The Message says, “Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.”
I can say for a fact that the best, longest-lasting, most profound lessons learned in my life have come out of meeting those hard times head-on and sticking it out while being Loyally in love with God.
How to Increase Your Faith in God
The Passion translation of James 1:12, says, “If your faith remains strong, even while surrounded by life’s difficulties, you will continue to experience the untold blessings of God! True happiness comes as you pass the test with faith, and receive the victorious crown of life promised to every lover of God!”
You receive life. What does it mean to ‘receive life?’ In this verse, the Greek word used is Zoe. Strong’s Concordance defines Zoe this way – “life, both of physical (present) and of spiritual (particularly future) existence: 2222 zōḗ – life (physical and spiritual). All life (2222 /zōḗ), throughout the universe, is derived – i.e. it always (only) comes from and is sustained by God’s self-existent life. The Lord intimately shares His gift of life with people, creating each in His image which gives all the capacity to know His eternal life.”The very thing meant to take life from you can be made to give life to you! Click To Tweet
Lessons in Life From the Book of James
Receiving life entails far more than just breathing and eating. It is the life derived from and sustained by God’s own self-existent life. We can always use more of that. Particularly since trials, hardships, words, and actions try to take that life from us. You can be physically alive yet feel spiritually and emotionally dead. James is saying that the very thing that wants to take life from you can be made to give life to you. The deciding factor is whether or not you choose to remain strong and pass the test of faith. The reward is the increase of God’s life within you.
“When you are tempted don’t ever say, “God is tempting me,” for God is incapable of being tempted by evil and he is never the source of temptation. Instead it is each person’s own desires and thoughts that drag them into evil and lure them away into darkness. Evil desires give birth to evil actions. And when sin is fully mature it can murder you! 16 So my friends, don’t be fooled by your own desires!” James 1:12-15 The Passion Translation
This verse is tough. Who wants to admit that the temptations they are struggling with were created by themselves? No one. I always want to blame someone or something else. It isn’t even the devil! It is our own evil desires – those things that are born in the flesh, grow through our desires and thoughts, and then the flesh gives birth and kills you. We feed them with our thoughts, our mind, and our failure to immediately confront them.
It’s easy to fool ourselves about this. It’s hard to admit that, many times, we truly are our own worst enemy. We fail to take those desires, lusts, and thoughts captive. If we don’t, the result is death. Evil desires give birth to evil actions and the only person to blame is yourself.
The Source of Temptation
There is a huge difference between trials and hardships vs. temptations. Trials and hardships can occur because we gave in to temptation. However, the trials and hardships James is referring to are those which we simply come upon as a part of life on this earth. The source of one is the world, the source of the other is the flesh.
I also think we would like to have an answer to this that somehow absolves us all the guilt. Can’t we blame something else just a little bit? No, we can’t. This is where the rubber meets the road in regard to our journey through life. When you are wrong, you must admit it. When you let your lust grow into more and more thoughts that feed it, and death results, you must repent. You must also resolve to do what the Word says the next time.“We can demolish every deceptive fantasy that opposes God and break through every arrogant attitude that is raised up in defiance of the true knowledge of God. We capture, like prisoners of war, every thought and insist that it bow in obedience to the Anointed One.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 The Passion
“Night’s darkness is dissolving away as a new day of destiny dawns. So we must once and for all strip away what is done in the shadows of darkness, removing it like filthy clothes. And once and for all we clothe ourselves with the radiance of light as our weapon. We must live honorably, surrounded by the light of this new day, not in the darkness of drunkenness and debauchery, not in promiscuity and sensuality, not being argumentative or jealous of others.
Fully Immersed in Jesus
Instead fully immerse yourselves into the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, and don’t waste even a moment’s thought on your former identity to awaken its selfish desires.” Romans 13:12-14 The Passion
“But this is not the way of life that Christ has unfolded within you. If you have really experienced the Anointed One, and heard his truth, it will be seen in your life; for we know that the ultimate reality is embodied in Jesus!
And he has taught you to let go of the lifestyle of the ancient man, the old self – life, which was corrupted by sinful and deceitful desires that spring from delusions. Now it’s time to be made new by every revelation that’s been given to you. And to be transformed as you embrace the glorious Christ-within as your new life and live in union with him! For God has re-created you all over again in his perfect righteousness, and you now belong to him in the realm of true holiness.” Ephesians 4:20-24 The Passion
Don’t Live in Vices
“Live as one who has died to every form of sexual sin and impurity. Live as one who died to diseases, and desires for forbidden things, including the desire for wealth, which is the essence of idol worship. When you live in these vices you ignite the anger of God against these acts of disobedience.
That’s how you once behaved, characterized by your evil deeds. But now it’s time to eliminate them from your lives once and for all—anger, fits of rage, all forms of hatred, cursing, filthy speech, and lying. Lay aside your old Adam-self with its masquerade and disguise.
For you have acquired new creation life which is continually being renewed into the likeness of the One who created you; giving you the full revelation of God.” Colossians 1:3-10 The Passion
How to Be Like Jesus
I think the steps we must take are very clear:
- We must demolish every fantasy, break through every arrogant attitude, and take every thought captive.
- Strip away the works of the flesh like old, filthy clothes.
- Put on the radiance of light – God is light. In Him there is no darkness at all. Jesus is the light of the world.
- Live honorably.
- Stay away from the darkness of drunkenness and debauchery, not in promiscuity and sensuality, not being argumentative or jealous of others.
- Fully immerse yourself into the Lord Jesus.
- Don’t waste even a moment’s thought on your former identity to awaken its selfish desires.
- Let go of the lifestyle of the old self who was corrupted by sinful and deceitful desires that spring from delusions.
- Be made new by every revelation given to you.
- Be transformed by embracing Christ.
- Live as one who has died to every form of sexual sin, impurity, diseases, desire for forbidden things (including the desire for wealth) which is the essence of idol worship.
- Eliminate evil deeds from your life once and for all – anger, fits of rage, all forms of hatred, cursing, filthy speech, and lying.
- Know that you have acquired new creation life which is continually being renewed into the likeness of the One who created you; giving you the full revelation of God.”
- If you choose, your faith will remain strong, even while surrounded by life’s difficulties, and you will continue to experience the untold blessings of God!
- Don’t be fooled by your own desires!
Now – listen to this promise!
“Every gift God freely gives us is good and perfect, streaming down from the Father of lights, who shines from the heavens with no hidden shadow or darkness and is never subject to change. God was delighted to give us birth by the truth of his infallible Word so that we would fulfill his chosen destiny for us and become the favorite ones out of all his creation!” James 1:17-18
What more is there to say?
We Have the Power of God
Verses 19-20 contain another to-do list:
“My dearest brothers and sisters, take this to heart:
- Be quick to listen, but slow to speak.
- And be slow to become angry, for human anger is never a legitimate tool to promote God’s righteous purpose.
- So this is why we abandon everything morally impure and all forms of wicked conduct.
- Instead, with a sensitive spirit we absorb God’s Word, which has been implanted within our nature,
- for the Word of Life has power to continually deliver us.” James 1:19-20
Again, these are self-explanatory actions we must each take as individuals.
Hearers and Doers
Now comes the section about being a doer and not just a hearer of the Word. The Passion says this:
Don’t just listen to the Word of Truth and not respond to it, for that is the essence of self-deception. So always let his Word become like poetry written and fulfilled by your life!
And The Voice translation says it this way:
“Put the word into action. If you think hearing is what matters most, you are going to find you have been deceived.”
Again, very straightforward instruction.
So Simple It’s Hard
Again, I want to point out that the Book of James is very practical. Actually, the entire Bible is but I think you can see by now why I said this about James. The instruction he is giving is very clear. In addition, it is in complete harmony with many other passages in the New Testament.
When I say that there is no need for explanation, I just mean that we often make the Bible harder to understand than it really is. Yes, there are areas where the meaning is deep and hard to fully grasp. Yet, the majority of it is quite simple. In fact, it’s so simple that it’s hard!Just stop sinning. That sounds simple when you read it. It is less simple as you try to live it. The problem is not that the Bible is hard to understand, the problem is that we underestimate:
- The power of the flesh and
- The power of the Holy Spirit
- Our own responsibility
- God’s power
- Our own power, through Christ, to live as He did
- Our own ability to deceive ourselves
- The power of the Holy Spirit to lead us in truth
- The depth of God’s love for us individually
Let’s face it, we pretty much underestimate everything about God. The instructions found in James and the entire Bible are there because of the intense love of God for us. He has spoken, and continues to speak, in every way possible to help us come to a clear recognition of the power He has and the power we have through Him.
We can do this! It’s not easy but the reward is unlike any other.
Subscribe to receive the Study Guide for the Book of James. It is updated each week as a new portion of the Study is released.