The Blessedness of Doing

James 1:25b

From Faith, Love & Hope: An Exposition of the Epistle of James, AMG Publishers, 1997.

"and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed" (James 1:25b).

In examining the first part of verse 25, we saw that the real meaning of it is that we should bow down close to the perfect law of freedom. We demonstrated that we live toward freedom in proportion as we live toward fidelity. The more faithful we are to Christ, the freer we are to obey His law; and our happiness is complete when we obey, not because of compulsion, but because of love.

If the Apostle had used another tense, that of the continuous present, in describing the man who bows down close to the mirror of the Word of God, he would not have needed to use the word that we are about to study, because he would have indicated that this obedience to Christ is not something that takes place once and for all, but that it is something continuous.

There are some people today who, when they hear a sermon on sanctification or holiness and raise their hands, think that they suddenly become perfectly sinless. Such people are the most likely candidates for an insane asylum, because soon after that event they are sure to find out that they are not perfectly sinless and will feel a tremendous burden of guilt. What a terrible blow it must be for one to think that he is perfect, only suddenly to discover he is not. I remember my professor of abnormal psychology saying once, "There is something wrong with the person who thinks and says that he is perfectly sane." The law of God is so perfect and we are so imperfect, even in our state of regeneration, that after we have yielded ourselves once to Christ (as the word parakupsas, which in our English Bible is translated "beholdeth," indicates), we need to continue in that condition of yieldedness.

What are we to do, having bowed down to Christ once? To get up and walk away as the man in verse 24 did, who looked at himself in the mirror, understood his condition and his need, but did nothing about it? No, indeed. James says, "He, who having bowed down close to a perfect law, that of liberty, and having stayed there." That is somewhat different from what we have in our English New Testament. There is so much more in the Word of God when we study it in its original inspired language.

Now the word paramenas, which the King James Version translates "continueth therein," is another participle to match the one with which the sentence starts and which means "having stayed close." It is a compound verb, the first part of which is the same preposition as that of the first participle, which, as we saw previously, means, among other things, "near" or "close by." The main verb means "to stay." It is not enough to have bowed down close to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of truth, but it is necessary to stay close by, to stick by Him. This is in contrast to the man who stood before the mirror of the Word, understood, and immediately left without doing anything about his condition.

Here we have a man who did not erect his self-righteousness before the Lord Jesus, but bowed down before Him in humility and stayed in that position. There was an Irish peddler who went from door to door selling his wares. He was met by a Christian who knew him and, after the regular greeting, the Christian remarked to the Irish peddler, "It's a grand thing to be saved." "Eh?" said the peddler. "It is, but I know something better than that." "Better than being saved?" the Christian friend asked in astonishment. "What can you possibly know better than that?" "The companionship of the Man who saved me," was the unexpected reply. That is exactly the message which James wants to convey to us. It is wonderful to bow down close to Christ, but it is even more wonderful to stay put, to stay close to Christ; and the closer we stay to Him, the easier it will be to obey His law. There will be no compulsion; it will be within our nature to obey Him.

A king once asked a rebel who had been brought into his presence, "Do you know that it is in my power to punish you?" The rebel replied, "Yes, but it is not in Your Majesty's nature." So it is with Christians who stay close to Jesus Christ. It is within their power simply to hear and not do, and even to sin, but it is not in their nature, for the closer we are to Christ, the longer we stay with Him, the more like Him we grow to be. After stating the case positively, James now states it negatively. It concerns the blessed Christian-the one who, having bowed down close to Christ, stays there. But there is no inactivity, no laziness with the Christian. James continues, "He, being not a forgetful hearer." A more accurate translation of this would be, "not becoming a forgetful hearer." James uses the same verb which he used in verse 22, which means "becoming" rather than "being."

It is true, we all forget, but what Jesus wants us to avoid is that state of mind when it becomes natural for us to forget. We go to hear the Word, having determined beforehand that we are going to forget what we hear. That is a terrible state to be in and is certainly not conducive to happiness. I would rather see a man who honestly refuses to hear the Word, than one who hears constantly and makes it his business to forget what he has heard.

That same verb of becoming extends to the next sentence which James uses. We should not become habitual forgetters, but instead become "doers of the work." I would have you note here that James has changed the phraseology somewhat. Up to now he has urged us to become doers of the Word, but now it is "doers of work." There is no definite article before the word "work." Nor does James say "works."

I believe this word here is used to place emphasis on the word "doer." We might paraphrase it this way: "Get yourself into such a state that you are a doer of something that is tangible." The word ergon, "work," among other things means "the result of work." God does not want us Christians to build castles in the air, but to direct our efforts into the performance of something which can be seen by others. Let us remember what our Lord said: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16). God wants finished products which can be seen by others.

We have previously noted that the word "doer" in Greek has the connotation of giving shape and beauty to something, just as the poets take words and put them together to make a work, a beautiful poem, which can inspire and challenge. We ought to gather the fragments of life found here and there, which seem to have so little meaning for others, and make something out of them which will attract their admiration, not toward us, but toward the One to whom we have bowed our lives and our talents. God is not interested in how much work we are doing, but in the net product of our work. There may be thousands of auto workers in a factory, but of what use are they if they are not going to turn out a finished product, a car or some part to be used in a car? If we could only comprehend what God demands of us! The trouble with Christianity today is that there are so many doers, but there is very little work accomplished which, like a beautiful poem, inspires others to follow our Christ. We do and do, but still the work of God remains undone. Let us produce some finished products for the Lord, shall we?

Furthermore, this word "work" in Greek usually has the connotation of hard work, a hard task. A neighbor knocked at a lazy man's door and told him of a position he could get by going after it. "Um," said the man, "it appears that considerable effort will be involved." "Oh, yes," said the neighbor, "you will pass many sleepless nights and toilsome days, but it is good pay, and a chance for advancement." "Um," said the man, "and who are you?" "I am called Opportunity." "Um, you call yourself Opportunity, but you look like Hard Work to me." And he slammed the door. What wonderful opportunities are granted to us as Christians to do hard work for the Master! Let us be productive through hard and humble labor.

A wonderful thing is said by James of this man who works hard to produce something tangible for the Lord. "This one shall be blessed in his doing." This is as if the Lord had added another beatitude through James, "Blessed are the hard workers." The thrilling thing about this is that we do not need to wait till payday to be happy; there is happiness in the performance of the work itself. As we work for God, we experience something which we do not feel when working for material benefits. There is happiness in doing things for God. If you are not happy in what you are doing, perhaps you should attempt something that is a bit harder but which may have in it inherent happiness and blessedness.

A refined girl was converted. After a little while, in a testimony meeting, there were those who were expressing thanks for what God had done for them, saving them from drink, or gambling, or worldly pleasures. Presently this sweet girl got up and said, "Christ gave me a bigger salvation than any of you. He has saved me from an easy armchair."

Spiros Zodhiates (1922-2009) served as president of AMG International for over 40 years, was the founding editor of Pulpit Helps Magazine (Disciple's predecessor), and authored dozens of exegetical books.

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