Read: James 1:23-24 NRSV
For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like.
Sometimes my wife will send me upstairs to fetch something and I’ll come back a few minutes later having changed my shirt or grabbed a cup of water, having completely forgotten whatever it was she asked me to get for her. Obviously, I heard what she said. I got up off the couch and walked upstairs, but something pulled my attention and I robotically followed the steps of some other task.
That’s how James describes those who hear the word and do nothing. The words are registered but they don’t drive the hearer to an appropriate action. His choice of metaphor is important also. “They look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like.” We are made in God’s image, and He wants us to be like Him, together in perfect unity. Our actions, therefore, can make us more like Him or less like him if we follow the desires of the sinful nature. The word of God should compel us to the actions that make clearer the nature of God within us.
It’s not enough simply to listen. God is urging us to action. It’s not enough to act. We need to carefully attend to God’s word to direct our actions. It’s not enough to listen to my wife asking for a pair of socks and remain sitting on the couch. It’s also not enough to jump up and run upstairs to get sidetracked and feed the cats. Action and attention must go together. Our actions are only righteous if they are responsive to the will of God.