19 Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry. 20 This is because an angry person doesn’t produce God’s righteousness. 21 Therefore, with humility, set aside all moral filth and the growth of wickedness, and welcome the word planted deep inside you—the very word that is able to save you.
22 You must be doers of the word and not only hearers who mislead themselves. 23 Those who hear but don’t do the word are like those who look at their faces in a mirror. 24 They look at themselves, walk away, and immediately forget what they were like. 25 But there are those who study the perfect law, the law of freedom, and continue to do it. They don’t listen and then forget, but they put it into practice in their lives. They will be blessed in whatever they do.
In ancient times, mirrors were luxury items. Not everyone had one. And even if you had one, chances were it wasn’t that great. Imagine trying to fix your hair in the morning with a smallish piece of polished metal. It was difficult.
The fact that mirrors were not common meant that, for the most part, people had only a vague sense of what they actually looked like. We have a hard time imagining this (even though some of us might secretly prefer it!) Instead, we have mirrors everywhere and selfies for when we don’t. We are intimately familiar with our faces. But we only know what we look like because we have constant reminders.
It’s in this context that we can begin to make sense of verse 24. We remember that which we see and study again and again. But James’ message is that we need to take it one step further. It’s not enough to study, it’s also about putting the Word into action. Engagement with the Word of God should be an ongoing cycle of faithful reading, prayerful study, and deliberate practice. Neglect any of those steps and you will soon forget what you look like.
It’s not unlike going to the gym: spend a couple weeks away, and I guarantee you’ll need to pick up the lighter dumbbells. It’s a little bodily reminder that “I need to get here more.”
The scriptures are the same way. Even for me, a pastor who works with the Bible every day – I find that it’s very easy to forget those things I should know. It’s even easier to fail at putting them into practice. I constantly have to renew my knowledge and recommit myself to action.
Don’t be guilty of walking away and forgetting what you look like. Instead, keep returning to the Word that holds a mirror up to your life and spirit.
by Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
How would you describe your relationship with the Bible? Do you find the time you spend with it rewarding, or frustrating? What do you think might help you get more out of it? If you need suggestions for resources, take a moment today to reach out to your pastor(s). We’re happy to help!
Prayer: God, we pray that you would not only open up the scriptures for us to hear and understand, but that they might also offer a mirror into the state of our own souls and how well we’re practicing what we believe. Reveal the places of beauty and brokenness in us, that we might come to you for hope and healing. Amen.
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