“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” ~ James 1:23-25
Explanation of the Text: This next set of verses exemplifies the practical application of what James just taught in the preceding verses. There are two examples seen in these verses. The first is of a person who is a hearer only of the word and the other is of one who is a doer. Verses 23-24 begin with an analogy of one who is a hearer only. To understand what James is explaining, there is a need understand what a mirror is. The mirrors we have today are clear and pristine, transmitting a perfect reflection of the person who is staring into it. However, the mirrors of James’ day were very different than what they are today. Usually they were made of a material like bronze or copper, pounded out by a hammer, and highly polished to reflect an image, but they still reflected an imperfect or unclear image. For a person to see their reflection, to see the imperfections, one had to examine himself or herself very intently. What James is showing in these verses is that a hearer is like a man who goes to the mirror and examines himself. He does so with care and concern, in great detail, because that is the only way one can get a true perspective of what the mirror is reflecting. However, upon examining himself, the hearer turns away without regard for what he just saw in the mirror. He does not take the time to fix the blemishes or imperfections and instead continues on as he was. In this manner, he has deceived himself into thinking that he is better than he really is.
In verse 25, James gives the opposite example, explaining that a person who examines the law (which is God’s Word) and remains in it is a doer. He will not forget the word, but rather act upon it and apply it to his or her life. The doer of the Word uses God’s Word as the basis for living, looking intently into it like the mirror. The Word of God then becomes the mirror in which one is to examine himself. The word ‘intently’ suggests that the person is looking at it deeply, studying it in order to see what God’s law actually says, so that one can conform to it. The call here is for every person to examine himself or herself in the mirror of God’s Word, comparing what it says to what your life actually is, finding a reflection of your true character and seeking thus, to change the image being reflected of Himself into the image of Christ.
Examination & Application of the Text: Over the past several weeks, we have repeatedly come across the need to be in God’s Word. James, while never denying the action faith plays in salvation, recognizes greatly the need to be a doer of the Word. As a result the first chapter (and some of chapter 2) heavily emphasizes the need to be in the Word in order to do it. It probably seems futile to once again deliver this point again in our daily devotion. However, if James thinks it is that important, then perhaps there is a reason! As people, we have often replaced the Word of God with the word of man. We value our opinions of the truth, rather than the truth itself. James’ teaching is just as needed today as it was during the time in which James lived. We cannot deny the importance of this aspect.
Out of this text, there is another aspect of application that is important to make. As James discusses the man in the mirror who reflects his reflection, believers should be using God’s Word as their mirror. As a mirror, allow it to reflect an image of who you truly are. When it shows you your gifts, use them. When it shows you what you are doing wrong, recognize and change it. When it shows how you can live in the power of Christ, live in it. The Word should be a tool for you to use to examine your life, but it must be done truthfully. One cannot examine themselves in God’s Word and then not respond. Let your time of daily devotion be an opportunity to do just that, let it be a time of examining yourselves in the mirror of God’s Word.
Therefore, be in the Word more and more. Seek it. Read it. Learn it. Meditate on it. Apply it. Teach it. Let the Word of God richly dwell in your life and let it be reflected to others in your life.