Obedience & Action

James 1:19
Don’t just listen to God’s Word. You must do what it says (v.22).


Francis Marion Tarwater, Flannery O’Connor’s
young, disturbed character in The Violent Bear It
Away, came of age in the backwoods—far from
the town and other people. Tarwater’s uncle, a bizarre
man who had ecstatic visions and believed he was a
prophet, raised the boy. When his uncle died, however,
Tarwater headed to the city to find his remaining family.
Once there, it became evident that he wasn’t prepared
for the city’s temptations. He discovered that he couldn’t
passively rest on the values he had been taught. He had
to act. “You can’t just say NO,” said Tarwater. “You got
to do NO. . . You got to show you’re not going to do one
thing by doing another.”

James, intensely concerned that our faith be lived and
not merely professed, said something similar. Words—
heard or spoken—are never enough. We have to act.
We have to obey. If we only hear God’s instructions but
never actually do anything with them, then we “are only
fooling [ourselves]” (James 1:22).

For James, foolishness was not ignorance (not
knowing the truth), but rather a failure of action
(knowing the truth, but not doing anything about it). “If
you listen to the Word and don’t obey,” he wrote, “it is
like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself,
walk away, and forget what you look like” (v.23-24).
Looking at a mirror is useless unless we act on whatever
we discover staring back at us. Likewise, hearing God’s Word is useless unless
we act on the truths we are given.

It’s easy to learn facts. We know that eating too many cheeseburgers is
bad for our health, and we know that our failure to forgive is toxic for our soul.
The problem isn’t our knowing these facts, however; it’s the need for doing, for
action. —Winn Collier

Looking back over James 1:19, what are the straightforward truths
James gives? What concrete actions does James suggest these truths
should prompt?

What truths has God revealed to you recently? What are you doing to
respond and to obey them?

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