Wednesday 01 February 2017

Bible Book:

“But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.” (v. 22)

James 1:19-27 Wednesday 1 February 2017

Psalm: Psalm 98

The Methodist Church's Bible Month this year focuses on theletter of James. It takes place in June, although churches andcircuits may choose a different time if that is more convenient.For more information (including training and resources), goto


The Letter of James has been viewed with suspicion in somequarters of the Church, particularly by those who wish to advocatethe teaching of Paul who wrote that "a person is justified by faithapart from works prescribed by the law" (Romans3:28). James offers a contrasting emphasis on the importance offaith being worked out in actions and behaviour. In light of thisthe German theologian Martin Luther (1483-1546) dismissed the letteras "an epistle of straw".

Here in today's passage readers are encouraged to "be doers ofthe word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves". It isthose who act who will be "blessed in their doing" (v. 25) and thetruest form of religion will bridle the tongue and care for orphansand widows in their distress. Anything less will be a deception andwill make their religion "worthless" (v. 26).

It is not difficult to see how both emphases are required andhave their place and value. Paul's message of grace and faith, andsalvation as a free gift of God, lies at the heart of the Christianreligion. But throughout the history of the Church this has attimes been distorted to mean that it doesn't matter how a Christianor a Christian community behaves, as long as they have faith. Maybethis is what James was addressing in the early Church or at leastthe general disposition to welcome the word of God without puttingit into practice - to be merely hearers of the word and notdoers.

When Christians deceive themselves and engage in this"worthless" religion they open up the Church to the accusation ofhypocrisy. A gulf develops between what is said and what is done,and integrity and credibility are lost. We bridle the tongue andcare for orphans and widows not in order to earn God's love, but inresponse to God's love as we seek to imitate God as revealed in thelife, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are known by ourlove and by the fruit we bear - or not as the case may be!

To Ponder

  • What does it mean for you to "welcome with meekness theimplanted word that has the power to save your soul" (v. 21)?
  • Why do you think the behaviour of Christians matters?
  • In which contexts and in what ways would it be helpful for youto "bridle your tongue" (v. 26)? 
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