Read James 1:22
What does it mean? Paraphrase it. Restate it.
Practice what you preach. Put your money where your mouth is. You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk…
The problem we face is becoming “doers of the Word” who are not real “Doers” of the Word. You ask, “How can I be a “non-doing doer”? The dictionary definition of “doer” is – “the person who does something : the doer of the action.• a person who acts rather than merely talking or thinking.” That is the easy part, the surface. There is more to being a “doer of the word” than just doing. I know, that is hard to believe. We do really well at measuring ourselves each week by our church attendance, tithe check, and smile holding ability (some are able to keep a straight smile all the way through Sunday School – as long as no one touches their Starbucks. Impressive.). That is just not what it takes to be a “doer of the word.” Consider this example. A mother of two boys asks them each to clean their room. Both boys go about picking up their clothes they “hung up under the bed,” straightening their dressers, making their beds, and tending to other messes. Both do what their mother tells them. However, one complains the entire time. His mother is too strict, she expects to much, she is a hypocrite because her room is messy too, she is a legalist… Which one obeyed their mother’s instructions? Both of them. Which one honored their mother in what they did? Obviously not the one complaining! Both were “doers,” but only one really did it correctly. You see, it is not just about action, but attitude.
That last thing I want to see in this youth group is simply an external adjustment. In a conversation about the topic of our studies, one of my friends, Dave Casey, made this comment “The last thing you and your youth group need is behavior modification, which is the default mode of most conservative evangelical churches.” I do not expect you to respond to this lesson by vowing to read your Bible for five hour each day, or fast twice a week, or start a special Bible study meeting every night, or join a monastery. I am asking that you consider what you are already doing. Are you a true doer?
We do not need any more burden-passers (Matt. 23:4), ego strokers (23:5), heavenly door-slammers (23:13), hypocrites (23:15), convert-killers (23:15), blind guides (23:16), blind fools (23:17), penny counters (23:23), spirit of the law neglecters (23:23), gnat straining camel swallowers (23:23), inwardly rotting surface cleaners (23:25), whitewashed tombs of dead people’s bones (23:27), prophet killing tomb decorators (23:29), serpents and vipers (23:33).
This is the description that Jesus gave for the Pharisees in Matthew 23. It appears that He was not pleased with their methods of “doing.” If anyone were to be considered “godly,” it was this group. They were the elite. They knew their Old Testament Torah. They knew what all the leaders said about the Torah. They knew all the secret rules and exact procedures. They were respected, they were looked to for spiritual guidance. Even with all their doing, they still were not “doers of the Word.” James MacDonald makes this comment, “On the positive side, the Pharisees took the Bible very seriously. They confronted error, they separated themselves from the world, they were hypersensitive to the application of God’s Word. So what’s wrong with that? Nothing–that’s all fine. But Jesus identified their acute internal problem in Matthew 15:8, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me’.”
Take a look at Matthew 15.
Background – Jesus is where? Gennesaret (14:34), this is another name for Galilee. What is Jesus doing? He was healing masses of people (14:35-36). What happens? The scribes and the Pharisees came from Jerusalem (15:1). They made a pretty heavy trek. They would have had to cross over the Jordan, skirt around Samaria, then cross again to meet Jesus. They were serious. Why were they there? Did they want to be healed? No. Did they want to hear the words of life? Probably not. Did they want to worship him? Not likely. They wanted to know if He washed His hands. WHAT?! Jesus was calming the storms, walking on water, healing the sick, and they wanted to make sure He washed His hands before He went to the dinner table! Their mothers must have been real sticklers! My mom made us wash our hands before we sat down, but it wasn’t that big of deal. Actually, this was one of their many rules which they considered sacred. If someone did not wash ceremonially before they ate, they defiled themselves. They wanted to make sure everything was kosher.
Jesus, however, was not excited about their cleanliness or ceremonialness. Is response to their question He fires back, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, Honor your father and your mother, and, Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die. But you say, If anyone tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is given to God, he need not honor his father. So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites!” (Matthew 15:3-7a).
They had focused on the rules and regulations made by man and failed to obey God’s commands. “Tradition refers to any kind of teaching, written or spoken, handed down from generation to generation. In Mark 7:3, 9, 13, and Colossians 2:8, this word refers to the arbitrary interpretations of the Jews. The commentator Lightfoot gives a number of curious illustrations from the old Talmudic writers, showing the value that they set on traditions: ‘The words of the scribes are lovely, above the words of the law; for the words of the law are weighty and light, but the words of the scribes are all weighty. The words of the elders are weightier than the words of the prophets’.” (The New Manners and Customs of the Bible, 443).
Jesus then pulls the curtain back on a little trick the Pharisees would use to get out of caring for their elderly parents. “Oh, sorry Mom and Dad, you know I am godly now. I can’t take care of you because all I own is God’s now.” It was a lie, they only wanted to get out of their responsibility.
Then Jesus quotes a description of these fake leaders from the book of Isaiah. ““This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” The passage which Jesus was quoting, Isaiah 29:13, states “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men…” Ouch! “Their fear of me is a commandment taught by men.” It’s all in the classroom. There is nothing in their hearts.
James MacDonald sums it up like this, “The Pharisees put on a good show, but Jesus saw right through it. They wanted to look like they had it all together with God, but hadn’t privately done the heart business with Him. Looking the part was all they cared about.”
This is not what James was talking about when he said we are to be “doers of the word.” If we are obeying God for the wrong reasons, it isn’t true obedience.
Jesus then calls together those who are watching and lays it out on the table. He explains that no matter what you eat, it can’t defile you (or make you ceremonially unclean). It is what comes out of your mouth that defiles you. What comes out of your mouth is coming from your heart, and your heart is what matters.
The disciples interrupt him by letting him know that the Pharisees aren’t too happy. Obviously not! Jesus has made it His goal to confront their facade. I wouldn’t be happy either! He tells them, “If God hasn’t planted them, they will be uprooted. Leave them be. They are blind guides, that is all.”
You see, God is concerned about the heart – that is where the issue is. The heart of the matter is really a problem with the heart. Out of the heart comes a slew of evil things such as evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander (vs. 19). Earlier during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reveals that hate in the heart is the same as murder, and lust is adultery. The heart is of utmost importance.
You see, it is not just what you do that makes you a doer of the Word, but what are the attitudes and motives behind it. It all hinges on the heart.
I asked for some examples of things that we do as Christians. Here are some of the responses:
1. Read our Bible
3. Attend Church
4. Rejoice in God
5. Love others
6. Be modest
7. Be a witness
8. Take care of our parents
9. Trust God
10. Encourage one another
11. Be an example
12. Worship God
And the list could go on.
Then I had them give me some attitudes with which we could do these things which would completely negate our obedience to God. Here are some of those:
1. Read our Bibles in order to be able to tell others that we did our “Devotions”
2. Witnessing by force
3. Out of obligation
4. Out of pride
6. Out of fear
7. For appearances
8. To be popular
9. To ease a guilty conscience
10. Without love for Christ
And again, the list is not exhaustive.
Being a doer of the Word involves a lot more that mere actions, although those are needed. James pretty blatantly tells us – faith without works is dead. However, it does not mean simply:
1. Showing up to every service in order to keep up appearances
2. Reading a chapter a day to keep the Devil away
3. Keeping your list of “Can’t Do’s” longer than your list of “Can Do’s”
4. Flying below the parent radar
5. Not doing the “BIG” sin – drinking, drugs, or sex
Being a doer of the Word is being concerned just as much about the heart as the action. Let the Pharisees be an example for us, albeit, an example of what not to be. Let’s be doers of the Word.