We all have those days. You roll out of bed ten minutes like, looking like you just survived a nuclear holocaust. You manage to stumble through your morning routine, take a last glance in the mirror before rushing out the door and realize that your hair is still a mess and your socks don’t match. And your reaction is “Eh, good enough.”
It’s fine if that happens to you occasionally. Like I said, we all have those days. But that is not the purpose of a mirror. Most people check their reflection before leaving the house so they can fix that crooked button on their shirt or smooth down that tuft of hair. If you’re just going to leave yourself exactly the same as you are, why bother looking in the mirror at all?
James had that exact same question, but he wasn’t really talking about fixing your appearance. He was reminding the readers of his letter that reading the Bible without trying to apply it to your life is as pointless as looking in a mirror without trying to clean yourself up.
Not Hearers Only
Last week we talked about the importance of reading the Bible. But just reading it doesn’t accomplish a whole lot. We need to do what it says. Otherwise, we’re only deceiving ourselves. We might feel good about how many times we’ve read the Sermon on the Mount, but until we’re practicing what Jesus preached, God is not impressed.
James is pretty harsh on this point. He tells people who do not put God’s Word into action in their lives that their religion is worthless. In chapter 2, he says that they have dead faith. God doesn’t want us to just be collecting bits of Christian trivia that we can spout off when the situation calls for it. He wants us to be living examples of His love, demonstrated primarily in how we treat the people around us.
Don’t feel bad if you aren’t filling up pages with notes every time you open your Bible. Sometimes it’s hard. If you’re crunched for time, whipping through one chapter is better than not reading anything at all. If your mind wanders during the description of the exact dimensions of the Temple, that’s understandable. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to do better.
James says that we should be looking intently into the law. For some reason that makes me think of making eye contact with another person. It’s kind of awkward if you two just end up staring at each other. For a lot of people it’s very uncomfortable. But meeting someone’s eyes is one of the best ways to look confident and sincere and trustworthy.
Locking gazes with the Bible can get uncomfortable, too. You start to notice things about yourself that you hadn’t really thought about before. You start to realize that some of the behavior we accept as natural isn’t so acceptable to God. You start to think that maybe you need to change.
Skimming the surface of the Bible will never lead you to a deep relationship with God. And digging into the meat of the Bible doesn’t mean you need to give up all the fun in your life. James says that the law gives freedom. That may sound backwards to a lot of people, but following God’s rules frees you from the world’s expectations.
The world loves to pounce on someone’s mistakes and plaster them all over social media. We might pause over a heartwarming news story, but it will never achieve the ratings of a juicy celebrity scandal. The world insists that you are good enough to succeed on your own and then loves to watch you fail.
God’s message is the exact opposite. He gave us the law to show us what service to a Holy God demands. And when we humble ourselves to admit that we can’t meet those demands, He tells us that He already paid the price for our failure so that we can enjoy His success.
While parts of the Bible are very difficult to understand, much of it is not as complicated as we make it out to be. Even when it’s hard to follow God’s rules, we shouldn’t be afraid to try. He will always be there to catch us when we fall.
If you’ve been reading your Bible this week, go you! This week we’re going to up the stakes a little. Read the Bible, and do what it says.