But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work; this one will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22–25—NKJV)

For far too long Christianity has grown accustomed to being a habit for far too many of its adherents. Church attendance has become analogous to being born again, church membership has been of higher value than pious living, and high visibility “churchianity” has been the focus rather than the prayer closet. Nothing paves the way more for anemic Christianity than living for the praise of men.

James, the half-brother of our Lord, was exceptional at painting pictures of poignant truth. Those who believe that hearing is doing would do well to heed his lesson. Actually, doing is not all he calls us to aspire to, but rather being a “doer.” His call is to every genuine believer. Anyone who is sincerely born again can understand that hearing, and even doing, are not enough. What is needed is a commitment of all of one’s being, body, soul, and spirit. To “do” can be outside of oneself and require very little of oneself. A “doer” is the entire person caught up in obedience. A doer is in the habit of doing systematically and owns his doing as his own business.

Being only a hearer (or even a hearer who does good things but is not fully obeying) leaves the hearer wide open to a major problem—self-deception. The Greek term James uses is a math term related to miscalculation based on reason (literally, to reason alongside). Being content to be a “hearer” is a serious spiritual error in betraying oneself by miscalculation.

James illustrates the problem with something with which we all are familiar. The hearer who does not become a doer is like anyone observing his “face of his birth” in a mirror. He contemplates what the image shows him, turns away without doing anything about it, and quickly forgets what kind of man he was. He continues on his way. The mirror is recommending changes and he fails to take appropriate action.

I think it is appropriate to see what kind of wondrous mirror James is talking about. The looking glass is actually the Word of God, or as James further defines it, it is the perfect law of liberty. The Creator of the mirror is God. The image that God causes it to reflect to the believer is His perfect vision of body, soul, and spirit. The purpose for the image that is reflected back to the eyes of the hearer is liberating conformity to the will of God. 1 Peter 2:16 reads, “as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.” The mirror is for genuine freedom from sin and for abundant blessing from God. Alford said, “The life of obedience is the element wherein blessedness is found and consists.”

Be a doer, look (bend over and look down) into the Law of Liberty, continue in it (keep it at your side). Do not be a “hearer of forgetfulness” but a “doer that works.” James is expounding on Psalm 19:7 and 11, “The law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple…. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping of them there is great reward.”

No one wants their life to be full of meaningless and useless activity. Even more true for the believer who has been awakened by God’s grace to things that really count for eternity. Review your life and test whether you are a practitioner of “churchianity.” Renew your commitment to authentic Christianity by being a doer of the Word. Trust and obey.