“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22)
James cautions us against only hearing God’s word and not following through in its application. But he frames being a hearer and not a doer in terms of self-deception. What does fooling ourselves have to do with follow through?
His point has to do with presumption. At a vaccination center around me people receiving the COVID vaccine were given a colorful sticker that boasted, “I got my COVID-19 vaccine!” I suppose that since it was a sticker it was intended for me to display it. That sticker attested to my hearing of the availability and believing in the value of the vaccine, and actually getting the shot.
But what if I had just walked in and grabbed a sticker? Would owning and displaying it assure me of the vaccine’s benefits? No, that would be silly. I’d be deceiving myself and others.
That’s the way it works with faith. To say we believe is no guarantee that we do believe. We can be professors of faith without being possessors of it.
James is concerned with the genuineness of our faith. Is it real? Is it effective against the mortality of sin? Do we have reason for confidence before God?
James holds out two ways for us to examine our faith. One, does it line up with God’s word? James will later talk about “faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Faith is not in faith. It takes a stand, trusting in something. Saving faith trusts in Jesus Christ alone.
Two, does our faith show up in a changed life? James will later tell us that faith without works is dead. Saving faith is receptive to God’s word and responsive to it.
“Father, may Your Spirit help me to know that I am part of the household of faith.”