By Rony Kozman, Ph.D.
Assistant professor of Biblical Studies, Samford University
Obey God’s Word
Respond to God’s word with humility. (19–21)
We have been born anew by the word of truth that comes from the Father (1:18). Just as in the book of Genesis where God creates and brings new life by His word, so also are we born again by God’s word of truth, which is the good news of Jesus Christ. The word of truth brings new life since the Word who became flesh, Jesus Christ, is restoring the heavens and the earth.
The new birth God’s word generates is set in contrast to another birth that James discusses: the birth of death. In verse 15, we read desire gives birth to sin, and then sin gives birth to death. James distances God from temptation, sin and death.
God does not set in motion the birth of death. Far from it. God sets in motion the birth of our new life by His word of truth. And we must receive His implanted word since by it we are born anew, and by it we are saved.
We must make ourselves fitting recipients of God’s word. Rather than being characterized by anger, a quick tongue or wickedness, we should be meek and humble as we receive the Word.
Obey the commands of Scripture without delay. (22–25)
Not only are we to receive God’s word with meekness, but we must also do God’s word. We must live in conformity to God’s word and wisdom.
When we encounter God’s word, the law that liberates and completes us, it is as though we are looking at a mirror.
This mirror shows us who we are and what we ought to become so that we may be made complete.
James’s language of the perfect (complete) law in which we should endure reminds us of our need to be made complete as we endure trials (1:2–4) and as we ask God for wisdom to endure (v. 5). We must endure in doing the good that God’s word demands of us. And we should do this with humility and with haste so we do not forget what we ought to do.
When James says the “doers who act — they will be blessed in their doing,” he reminds us of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount: “Everyone, then, who hears these words and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock” (Matt 7:24).
Our faith is worthless if our words and actions do not line up. (26–27)
James then gives us some specific things we must do if we are to be doers of the Word (v. 22). We must restrain our tongues. Or, as he said earlier, we ought to be slow to speak (v. 19). In addition to restraining our tongues, doing the Word includes caring for those who are especially vulnerable and who may have difficulty obtaining the necessities of life — orphans and widows.
Whereas many believers dismiss religion as empty man-made rules, James tells us there are religious practices that please God, such as caring for the vulnerable.
The kind of religion that is worthless is one where the tongue is wild and untamed and in which one’s deeds do not align with God’s word.