Translations: Chinese GB Big5

James 1:19-27 (web)

Christian Faith Obeys the Bible

Faith Listens Patiently to God's Word

1:19 So, then, my beloved brothers,
let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger;

Faith Acts on God's Word

1:21 Therefore, putting away all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness,
receive with humility the implanted word,
which is able to save your souls{or, preserve your life.}.

1:22 But be doers of the word, and not only hearers, deluding your own selves.

1:23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer,
he is like a man beholding his natural face in a mirror;
1:24 for he sees himself, and goes away,
and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.
1:25 But he who looks into the perfect law,
the law of freedom, and continues,
not being a hearer who forgets but a doer of the work,
this man will be blessed in what he does.
1:26 If anyone among you thinks himself to be religious while he doesn't bridle his tongue,
but deceives his heart, this man's religion is worthless.

1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this:

to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction,
and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Discussion Questions

vs 19-20 Have you ever been frustrated when people don't listen to you?
Have you run into that situation recently?
Do you often find that those who complain that people don't listen to them often don't listen to others? vs 21 What are examples of moral filth and evil that we should get rid of?
What does it mean by "humbly" accept the word? Why humbly? Also, what constitutes "the word"?

vs 22-25 Can one be a doer of the Word without listening to it regularly?
Is reading the Bible once through in a lifetime sufficient?
What difficulties have you run into in your study of the Bible when you try and derive applications from the Bible?

vs 26 What are examples of not keeping a tight reign on one's tongue?

vs 27 Of the two things mentioned here that constitute an acceptable practice of one's religion, which of these two do you run into more frequently?
Living in a rich country, though there are many spiritually needy, one has to make some effort to find those who are legitimately physically needy. Might it be more appropriate to consider more important the needs of those Christians in other countries who are much more needy than those here? Or how are you practicing vs 27?
What things in the world tend to pollute us?
So how do we keep ourselves from being polluted by such?


Be Quick to Listen

James 1:19,20 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

This principle is widely taught in proverbs. For example, "He who answers before listening— that is his folly and his shame." Pr 18:13 In fact "when words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise." Pr 10:19 "A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered." Pr 17:27 To be quick to share one's opinion shows lack of self-control. "Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools." Ec 7:9 And a person who is slow to speak is also one who is slow to anger.

Consequently a righteous life is not brought about by a mere knee-jerk reaction to the Word of God, but a thoughtfully planned out lifestyle based upon a dispassionate application oriented study of the Word of God.

Embrace the Saving Word

James 1:21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

What saves people? "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." Rom 1:16 Believing the gospel. And while salvation is by faith in Christ, "faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." Rom 10:17 It is through the eyewitness testimonies recorded in the Bible that we know about Jesus and his gospel message as elaborated upon by his apostles and it contains the historic record of Jesus' miracles providing us forensic evidence as validation. The apostle Paul declares, "Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain." 1Cor 15:1,2 And while there are those who consider it foolish that one hear the message to be saved, Paul writes, "God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe." 1Cor 1:21b 

However to embrace the gospel by faith involves repentance from sin, else as Paul writes above, one has merely a vain belief - a belief in which there is no correlation to one's behavior.  The grace of God "teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age" Titus 2:12 Consequently, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires." Gal  5:24

Do What it Says

James 1:22  Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

The deception spoken of here is alleging faith, but not acting on it. Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Mt 7:21 "Do nothing" Christianity is not Biblical Christianity. Merely reading the Bible and listening to sermons doesn't constitute the Christian life. Historically there have been many Christians, even famous ones, whose soul concern was right doctrine, even to the point of murdering fellow believers who don't agree with them on their particular pet doctrines. Yet they don't take to heart scriptures such as John writes, "Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him." 1John 3:15 Like the Pharisees of Jesus' day, such hypocrites read the scriptures but don't apply them.

Jesus said of such people, "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach." Mt 23:2,3 Yet each of us Christians must examine ourselves as to whether we take to heart the implications of what we claim to believe and practice what we preach.

To the Thessalonians Paul confidently wrote, "we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you." 1Th 1:4 And he goes on to list how he knows this, one being, "You became imitators of us and of the Lord" 1Th 1:6a Do not merely listen to the word. Do what it says.

I forgot what I looked like?

James 1:23-25 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it— he will be blessed in what he does.

What seems implied here is that the first man had no intention of retaining what he heard. But God intends for people to retain what he said, "These words which I command you today shall be in your heart.You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." Deut 6:6-9 and what is the verse that immedicately preceeds this passage but "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength." Deut 6:5 Love for God is shown by retaining and applying His word. The Psalmist says, "I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life." Ps 119:93  And "Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands." Ps 112:1

Consider yourself religious?

James 1:26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.

Jesus said, "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." Mt 12:34b In fact to emphasize the seriousness of one's speech he goes on to say, "I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." Mt 12:36,37

Of the Christian's speech Paul says, "There should be no obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving." Eph 5:4 And Peter writes, "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech." 1Peter 3:10

How do we achieve this? First by vigilance.

"He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin." Pr 13:3
"I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence." Ps 39:1

and by prayer:

"Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips." Ps 141:3

Evidence of a Pure Religion

James 1:27  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

The purity of one's Christian faith is seen by doing what is right, loving others and ceasing from sin. John writes of this in his first letter. "This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother." 1John 3:10 As such the practice of the Christian faith is not so much a matter of one's involvement in ceremony, one's attendance record, but in one's behavior.

In particular with reference to orphans and widows he is speaking of those who cannot help themselves. Granted there are rich widows today as well as orphans - those whose parents have died, but whom are nonetheless well off. Of these I don't believe he's speaking. It's the poor, the destitute, those who have no other means of help. Thus also is the sense of Paul's instruction concerning widows

Paul writes that "if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives." 1Tim 5:4

James likewise is referring to those who are in distress, not the rich and well off. These are the ones Christians should focus on. However many Christians simply direct their donations to funding the salaries of church teachers, preachers, missionaries and administrators. In fact the Bible indicates that such should not be the primary recipients of donations. In fact Paul instructs the Ephesian elders, "I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’" Acts 20:33-35 "the weak" should be the primary recipients of charity.

But one's generosity to those in distress is not solely the measure of the purity of the practice of one's religion. It is also keeping oneself form being polluted by the world. This means first that one must be aware of world's influence upon oneself and upon the Christian community. Whatever attitudes and ideas are popular in the world can be found to have influence upon Christians. "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is— his good, pleasing and perfect will." Rom 12:2 and "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world— the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does— comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." 1John 2:15,16

JAMES 1:19-27 RAP

1:19 Be slow to speak and quick to hear,
For we have one mouth, but more that one ear.
20 Be slow to anger, for it never acquires,
The righteous life that God desires.
21 Moral filth and evil put aside,
And let the word in you abide.
If in meekness this be your goal,
The word will surely save your soul.
22 Do the word, don't just be a hearer,
23 Like a man looking into a mirror.
24 He turns away, and yes he does
Forget what kind of man he was.
25 But if you look into the word with care,
Not forgetting what you hear,
And doing what it says to you,
You'll be blessed in what you do.
26 If you think you're a religious man,
Control you're tongue, if you can.
Else I could only say,
You're religion isn't worth the time of day.
27 Religion that's perfect, God confesses,
Is to help orphan and widows in their distresses,
And to keep oneself from being polluted, 
For sin in the world is firmly rooted.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

Nov 02,2011