How Do You Hear?

Following an explanation of temptation and discussing the fact that God does not tempt us (James 1:13-15), James reminds us that all good things come down from God (James 1:16-17). He then writes, “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth” (James 1:18a). Christians are “born again” by the teachings of the Bible. Jesus taught us that the word of God is like a seed planted in human hearts (Luke 8:11). Peter declares, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God...And this word is the good news that was preached to you (1 Peter 1:22-23, 25). New life (or a “newness of life") is granted to the children of God in Christ (see Romans 6:1-ff). The purpose of this new birth is “that we should be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures” (James 1:18b). God's people are very special to Him (first-fruits = first and best) and are to carry out His work in the world (Ephesians 2:8-10).

James continues his letter by exhorting, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19). It has often been pointed out that God created us with two ears, but with only one mouth. Now this principle is quite useful in interpersonal situations, but is that the point James is making? What exactly does he want us to be eager to hear in this context? Keep reading. “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).

James wants us to put aside our anger (v. 19-20) and worldliness so that we then may humbly pull in Divine truth. If we properly implant the word in our hearts, it will bring about our salvation (compare 2 Timothy 3:14-4:6). As we begin to put this all together, we should ask ourselves certain application questions... How quick are we to spout our opinion? How easily do we get annoyed or even angry in life? Do we ever get mad at what the Bible teaches? Do we meekly, eagerly, and faithfully listen to the teachings of God?

But James is not finished with us just yet, for he says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). As important as it is to believe and receive the words of God, it is essential that we actually practice what it says. Our saintly profession must include holy practice; our loving words must be followed up with loving deeds. Notice the contrast between salvation in verse 21 and deception in verse 21. Sobering fact: We deny our own salvation and lie to ourselves when we hear (maybe even gladly), but neglect to obey His truth. James goes on to compare a hearer only to someone looking at their face in a mirror, then walking away and immediately forgetting what they look like (James 1:23-24). Mirrors in the ancient world were made by polishing metals like tin and copper. The most accurate reflections were achieved with Corinthian bronze, but even their best paled in comparison to the accuracy of our modern glass mirrors. Most ancient people rarely saw their own faces, and James describes someone who quickly forgets their reflection. James warns us to not use the Bible like a rare mirror, but we must look deeply and intently into the word, retain a knowledge of it, and then follow it each day. “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:25).

Let the record show that proper faith is always connected to actions of faithfulness. Our faith is tested by the trials of life (James 1:2-4, 12; 5:7-11). We are to pray in faith (James 1:5-8; 4:2-3; 5:16-17). Our faith should cause us to be careful of our speech (James 1:26; 3:1-12; 4:11-12; 5:12), to take care of others (James 1:27; 5:1-6), and to live above worldliness (James 1:27; 4:4). True faith in Jesus does not show partiality (James 2:1-13). Faith is dead without works of obedience (James 2:14-26). Genuine wisdom (or faith) is always displayed by a wise lifestyle (James 3:13-18).

For His infinite worth,

Gantt Carter


Have you received forgiveness? Are you currently forgiven? Would you consider yourself to be a forgiving kind of person? Forgiveness is valuable and powerful...

Some in our culture give little (if any) thought to how they are treating others, and as to the nature of their influence on the people around them. Our Master says, “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!” (Matthew 18:7). Hurting others in this manner is certainly a very serious matter (see Luke 17:1-2), and we should give special attention to how our words/actions affect the spiritual vitality of others. As Christians, we must be extra careful about the influence we have upon other holy ones (1 Corinthians 8:7-13). Let us always remember that we are dealing with a brother or a sister “for whom the Messiah died” (1 Corinthians 8:11), and that sinning against our Christian family is ultimately sinning against our loving Savior (1 Corinthians 8:12). Our influence ought to be carefully guarded, protected, and intentionally used for the spiritual growth of others.

But what happens when someone commits a sin against me (read Matthew 18:15-20)? Jesus tells us to take it first to that person privately. If they will not listen to us, then we are to take along two or three others to serve as witnesses as we bring this matter to their attention. “If they will not listen to them, tell it to the congregation. If he or she refuses to listen to even the congregation, let them be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:17). We need to realize that not everyone is going to be willing to make amends, that not everyone will choose to do what is needed to bring about reconciliation.

But should we forgive someone even if they do not change their behavior? Some think we are to forgive everyone who sins against us, whether they repent or not. Does repentance matter in this discussion? Do people need to ask for our forgiveness before we actually forgive them? What does God reveal about this question in His words to us? Jesus says, “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3). Repentance is the proper prerequisite for actual forgiveness to take place.

Let us think about God for a moment... God is willing and eager to forgive all of humanity (see John 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:4). The Psalmist says to God, “For You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon You” (Psalm 86:5). He offers forgiveness to all (unconditional), but He only gives forgiveness to those who penitently respond to Him (conditional). God only forgives those who are willing to seek His forgiveness, and to faithfully follow His loving will.

We are to shape the way we forgive others from the way God forgives us in Jesus our Messiah (Ephesians 4:32). If we are unwilling to forgive others, then God will not forgive us (Matthew 6:12-15). We must be willing to forgive anyone, and for any amount of time (Matthew 18:21-22). It can be quite difficult, but we are to always forgive others from our heart (Matthew 18:35). However, we must not forgive actual sin against us, if the person is not willing to repent (turn away) from their sin. Now this does not mean we hold a grudge against the person if they are relentless and will not repent, and seek our forgiveness. If they will not repent, then let us let God take care of that, and let us never hold vengeance or ill will toward them in our hearts (see Romans 12:14-21).

Forgiving apart from repentance is not dealing with the issues, and can even be facilitating sinful behavior(s) (cf. Luke 17:1-2). Let us face it...there are some in this world who will not allow reconciliation to take place between them and Deity nor between them and us. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18). May we all plant our knees before the cross and the throne of the Lamb, and live each day with the kindness of a tender, broken heart. 

For His infinite worth,