James 1:19-27: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.“
Don’t just listen to God’s Word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves (1:22). Walk into someone’s house and a showcase living room quickly commands your attention. Ornate, expensive furniture populates rooms tastefully embellished with understated artwork. A lavish floral arrangement adorns a perfectly lit breakfast nook. But no one ever sits on the furniture. The flower-shaped soaps in the soap dish never clean anyone’s hands; the towels in the kitchen and bathroom don’t dry anything.
Everything you see is for show. Soon enough, the host ushers you to the basement. It’s not nearly as attractive, but downstairs is where the actual living takes place. Most of us maintain a similar façade in our lives.
When I’m angry with my wife or snap at my kids, but then I answer the phone and my voice suddenly becomes pleasant, I’m presenting to that caller only the upstairs of my life. If I lead everyone to believe that my spiritual life has only minor struggles, I’m not bringing the real me.
The apostle James warned about the self-deception we’re so susceptible to: “Don’t just listen to God’s Word,” he said. “You must do what it says” (James 1:22). Then he pointed out some specific areas where we all fall down. “If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless” (v.26). Next, he took additional aim at religion simply based on appearances: “How can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” he asked (2:1). “Doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?” (v.4).
An attractive house with two sets of living space is one thing. But a life that hides reality from the world is of no use to anyone. True religion requires honesty with ourselves, with each other, and with God. —Tim Gustafson