How to Hear (Part 2)1
I hate being tricked. Telemarketers using the guise of “surveys” doubly annoy me, magic tricks make my brain hurt, and scam artists make my blood boil. Unfortunately, my heart is the best deceiver I know. When it comes to hearing, I’m concerned that I share a weakness to deception with all the rest of you. I can hear, and hear, and hear, and still not do. In James 1:22-25, James probingly moves on from the right attitudes in hearing to the right actions.
James commands us all to be doers of the Word and not just hearers. James isn’t denigrating hearing; he’s just making the point that listening is not enough. It’s not the end. In Greek culture, this idea was used to describe someone who attended a lecture but wasn’t a disciple of the teacher. Like an auditor in class, they listen but don’t have to do the work. James’s point is that biblical hearing cannot be separated from obedient doing. Like adding two plus two and getting five, assuming that good church plus good preaching equals spirituality is a serious miscalculation.
James uses a classic illustration to remind us how easily and foolishly we deceive ourselves. The guy who stares into the mirror, then goes away and immediately forgets what he looked like and what was wrong with him is just like a hearer-only. James helpfully corrects our tendency to fixate on information and listening by saying it’s not the one who looks into the law of liberty who is blessed. We’re not blessed just because we saw words on a page or sat under an expository message or heard someone quote a Bible verse. We’re not even blessed because we studied hard and carefully or listened long and well. The blessing of God is reserved for hearers who do. The one who perseveres in the Word, doesn’t forget it, and then acts--that’s the person who God blesses. That’s a person who is not tricked, lulled into spiritual complacency and even pride for merely hearing God’s Word.
I pray that God will keep Grace Church from fitting this description from a commentator: “Our churches are filled with spiritual sponges who soak up the information, sit, sour, and eventually stink.” I pray that we become known to God as a doing church, hearing with right attitudes that are followed by right actions.