Most Bible scholars believe that the James
who wrote this epistle is the one who was a
brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55). Though he
was skeptical of Jesus during his ministry
(John 7:5), James was convinced that Jesus
was the Son of God after the resurrection (1
James was numbered among the company
in Jerusalem waiting and praying after Jesus’
ascension (Acts 1:14). Later Peter and Paul
met with him in Jerusalem (Galatians 1:19)
where he was the ―presiding elder‖ at a
church conference (Acts 15).
The letter of James shows a few marks of
being addressed to specific groups of
believing Jews outside the land of Israel.
James applied the wisdom of Jesus,
Proverbs, and the Law of Moses to these
It seems there were problems with angry
conversation and a lack of clarity about the
right way of life for a disciple of Jesus. James
called for humble acceptance of the way of
Jesus and taught the reward of pure religion.
The letter's perspective is distinctly Christian.
We see the Jewishness of the letter in its
address to "the twelve tribes scattered
among the nations" (James 1:1). These are
not simply Jews, but believers in Jesus, the
people of God in Christ.
They are scattered partly because of
persecution (Acts 8:1) and partly because
missionaries planted the seed of the gospel
outside Palestine, efforts that led still more
people to faith in Christ.
But after coming to faith, what's next?
Today's lesson addresses just this question.
The text examines how we as Christians we
are to hear and do the Word. The study's aim
is to see that being a real Christian requires
more than mere profession. The study's
application is to demonstrate that one truly
knows the Lord by living a changed life
devoted to Christ.
The command ―Do not be deceived‖ may
relate to the preceding verses regarding
temptation and sin, or stand alone as a dire
warning in general, or relate to the verses
that follow verse 16 or both.
Both Christians and unbelievers are
susceptible to deception and deceivers. No
one should deceive themselves into thinking
they can continue to practice sin and not
receive the wages of or consequences of
sin—death (Romans 6:23).
Every generous act of giving, with every
perfect gift, is from above, coming down from
the Father of lights, with whom there is no
variation or shadow due to change.
God gives generously beyond what anyone
can deserve, expect, or imagine.
God gives perfectly whatever is best suited
to each person.
God inspires people to give generously and
rightly according to His will.
God gives light, which reveals reality, what is,
and what remains to be competed.
God’s light reveals what is outside and within
a person. God shines His light from within
true Christians out into the world.
In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us
birth by the word of truth, so that we would
become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
When people come to true faith in Jesus
Christ as their Lord and Savior, they become
new people and receive a new beginning
from God. They come to true faith because
the light of God gives them understanding
and the ability to read and rightly apply the
word of truth (the Bible) to all of life.
Respecting people as created in the image of
God, God chose to use truth, the word of
truth, as the means of creating Christians two
thousand years ago, throughout the
subsequent centuries, and today.
Hearing the Word of God (1 Thess. 2:13) And
we also thank God continually because,
when you received the word of God, which
you heard from us, you accepted it not as the
word of men, but as it actually is, the word of
God, which is at work in you who believe.
You must understand this, my beloved: let
everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak,
slow to anger;
Those who truly know God express their faith
in self-control. James emphasizes that selfcontrol begins with our speech. The
instructions here are familiar, reflecting the
wisdom of the Old Testament (Proverbs 13:3;
Self-control in speech begins with being swift
to hear. Practically, that means listening to
others with consideration and empathy. But
more specifically, James is telling readers
that their first step is to listen to God’s Word.
Only then can they speak well.
The result of quick hearing and slow
speaking is that our words can be redirected
by the wisdom of God.
A proper self-assessment will restrain our
speech and make us better listeners. That in
turn leads to a different response with our
wrath or anger (Ecclesiastes 7:9).
True faith in God redirects our wrath because
we first realize that God, not we humans, will
do the judging and punishing that needs to
for your anger does not produce God’s
The Bible tells us to listen carefully to
understand others. If we wait to speak until
we have understood as fully as possible, we
should be able to speak love, light, and truth
into a situation or relationship—which can
require additional prayer for guidance and
But fallible humans can not measure just
punishment for every wrong. Worse than
that, we easily mistake our own motives,
justifying our wrath prompted by selfishness
as ―righteous indignation.‖
Anger tends to make a mess of our own lives
and of those around us.
The question is, ―What makes us angry?‖ It is
one thing to be angry at injustice and
wrongdoing. It is quite different to be upset
because of some personal slight or
James warns us to be sure we are angry
about the right things. (Ephesians 4:26.)
Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness
and rank growth of wickedness, and
welcome with meekness the implanted word
that has the power to save your souls.
God alone gives spiritual life, the new birth, and
God gives that spiritual growth and development
by implanting ―the word of truth‖ into the souls,
hearts, and minds of true believers.
Believers apply ―the word of truth‖ in the way
they behave, converse with, and relate to God
The believer needs to think about and obey the
implanted ―word of truth‖ in order to quit thinking
about and quit doing anything sordid, evil,
wicked, or that allows wickedness to grow within
Life apart from God is sadly characterized by
thoughts and actions that ruin the purpose for
which God created humans (Revelation 22:11).
So James says that we put aside (lay apart) the
old life and receive that powerful Word of God.
James describes this receiving the Word as
being engrafted, meaning ―planted inside.‖
But for its power to be at work, the implanted
Word needs to be received again and again.
But be doers of the word, and not merely
hearers who deceive themselves.
Those who listen but do not do are in a state of
self-deception. They pretend to be God’s people,
but their actions say otherwise. The engrafted
Word of God will yield fruit in changed behavior
If the behavior has not changed, then the Word
has been uprooted or never engrafted in the first
Our actions are the best indicators of the reality
of our hearts.
God and His word will help all men stop
practicing sin, to which they have become
Jesus Christ has freed His followers from slavery
to sin so they can do His word.
Righteousness is the obedience of God's Word
…and if we are careful to obey all this law before
the Lord our God, as he has commanded us that
will be our righteousness."
For if any are hearers of the word and not doers,
they are like those who look at themselves in a
James now describes this self-deception of the
person who does not act on the Word of God. In
the world of the New Testament, mirrors (the
meaning of glass) are rather common, though
being made of polished metal they are not
entirely like ours. Even so, these ancient mirrors
allow people to check their appearance.
Of course, the purpose of looking in a mirror is to
be able to do just that. That is the situation
James is describing: one who is examining his
natural face so to get a close, deliberate look.
The person takes note of the image in order to
make adjustments to improve his or her
The word of truth and the light of God can make
people uncomfortable when seeing themselves
as God sees them, but rather than turn away
with an uncomfortable feeling, hearers of the
word need to make the changes God expects
them to make in accordance with the Bible,
which reveals their lives to them.
for they look at themselves and, on going away,
immediately forget what they were like.
God’s Word reveals our true selves, ―warts and
all‖ as the old saying goes. It shows us what is
wrong and puts us on the path to make it right.
Not putting it into practice is akin to the foolish
self-deception of looking in a mirror and
pretending our real appearance is different.
To look into the mirror of the Word of God
involves an obligation. The intent and sustained
look with a ready response is the key to spiritual
strength and continued maturity.
The word for ―looks intently into‖ literally means
―to stoop down‖ in order to have a good close
The ―Law that gives freedom‖ seems like a
paradox. Law seems to imply restraint and
therefore a lack of freedom.
Not so with God’s Law. His perfect Law provides
true freedom. ―Hold to my teaching,‖ Christ said,
―then you will know the truth, and the truth will
set you free‖ (John 8:31-32).
But those who look into the perfect law, the law
of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who
forget but doers who act--they will be blessed in
We tend to think of law as restrictive, but James
affirms that God’s law gives liberty. This is a key
theme of Scripture. The God who gave freedom
to the Israelite slaves (Exodus 20:2) is the God
who gives the commandments that instruct His
people in the way of true freedom. Paul reminds
us that the true slavery is slavery to sin (Romans
The conscientious believer looks into God’s
Word and then considers the implications for his
life. It is called the ―perfect law,‖ just what the law
ought to be (Psalm 19:7).
Scripture is the perfect law that gives freedom.
All who continue doing what they have learned
will be blessed in what they do.
The truth is implanted for us to recognize what is
right (Isa 51:7)
"Hear me, you who know what is right, you
people who have my law in your hearts: Do not
fear the reproach of men or be terrified by their
If any think they are religious, and do not bridle
their tongues but deceive their hearts, their
religion is worthless.
It is possible for those who think they are
religious to fail at practicing Christianity by
continuing to say harmful, hurtful, or angry
They speak without thinking or understanding,
and they do not speak the truth in love.
Proper respect for the one true God consists of
behavior that reflects who God is. This involves
being obedient to His will, upholding His
standards of justice, mercy, grace, and
forgiveness. It means acknowledging God’s
supreme authority in what we say and do.
Some people consider themselves religious and
they give scrupulous attention to details of
Tasker said, ―Such a person may be very careful
to use the right words when he is performing a
religious ceremony, but very careless in his
speech at other times.‖
Speech that honors God is under control, the
way that a horse with a bit and bridle is under
the control of an equestrian (Psalms 34:13; 39:1;
141:3). The speech of a God-honoring person
follows the path that God sets. Such speech is
filled with love, grace, and forgiveness, but
tempered by righteousness and justice.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God,
the Father, is this: to care for orphans and
widows in their distress, and to keep oneself
unstained by the world.
The situation for widows who could not remarry
was harsh. While the book of Job testifies that
only wicked people mistreat the widow (24:3;
31:16), the fact is that wide mistreatment
occurred. Even Israel's leaders did not treat
widows well (Isa. 1:23) but often oppressed
them (Jer. 7:6).
Widows were vulnerable to having their
properties confiscated (Isa. 10:2) and were
occasionally killed for such purposes (Ps. 94:6).
The oppression of widows was so common that
a widow without children was "legally homeless,
without any social, political, or economic status
in the village"
James pairs generosity toward the helpless with
being unspotted from the world’s corruption. We
end up bearing the world’s filth when we
continue in the attitudes and behaviors that the
world produces: selfishness, violence, hatred,
vindictiveness, etc. God-honoring lives, by
contrast, stand out from the world.
Pure … and undefiled is the kind of devotion we
seek when we see ourselves and our situation
rightly. If we try to split the difference between
God and the world, we show that we are holding
onto our problem, not embracing our salvation. A
grasp of the truth impels us to end the world’s
kind of life and pursue God’s kind.
Jesus told the rich young ruler, "There is none
good but one, that is, God" (Matt. 19:17). He is
our example of all that is good. The more
conformed we are to the image of Christ, the
more people will see good in us, especially as
we become doers of the Word.
Those who continually spout their own opinions and
wisdom find it difficult to hear God's voice. And those
who are always ready to give someone a piece of
their mind should recognize that even if they are
logically correct, their anger does not accomplish the
righteousness God desires.
Gentle kindness is a more fitting tool for doing the
work of Christ.
James knew that not all of his readers would be
both good hearers and good doers. He
recognized a basic trait of sinful humanity: we
are very willing to deceive ourselves when the
truth does not suit us.
So he spelled out how a good doer progresses
It is human nature to excuse our vices and the
corruption that so easily flows from our sinful
We should instead nurture the word of truth that
God has planted within us. As it grows and fills
our heart, it gives meaning and purpose to life.
Those who are truly religious focus their efforts
on two main objectives: caring for the needy and
avoiding the many vices of this world. Without
any exaggeration, we could spend our whole
lives trying to do these two things and never fully
reach these goals.
Being a good listener is the work of a wise
person. Work on it! (Jas. 1:19)
Hearing God's Word but not acting on it is
harmful to our spiritual well-being (vs. 22)
Renew the Mind
Remember that only God is capable of truly fair
judgments (vs. 20)
Determine to let the Word of God reform your
attitude and demeanor (vs. 21)
Renew the Mind
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