Have you ever spent a whole day out and about and later walk past your reflection in a mirror or in some glass only to notice that something about your appearance is totally off? There have been countless times where part way through the day this has happened to me. I remember one time I made it to work with a dryer sheet clinging to the back of my pants leg. Another time I had a few rogue hairs that had somehow evaded my hurried hair routine in the morning, only to see them spazzing out in the mirror when I went to wash my hands later in the day.
If you are human like me, perhaps you have a list of stories funnier or even more embarrassing than me, or you are a robot and this has never happened to you. Either way, as James continues his epistle he turns to an illustration much like this one to teach a truth about the Christian life and our tendency to be less than obedient to the Word of God.
James began his letter by telling us that we will grow and mature as Christians when we patiently endure suffering and hard times. He then moved on to explain that sometimes we experience trouble in our lives because of our own sinning, and if we are experiencing difficulty we need to make sure that it is not because we are sinning. After establishing these two truths about hard times, James continues his message by explaining that trouble also happens because believers are not fully obedient to God.
In James’s estimation the formula for obedience is basic: stop your constant slavery to your own sinful lusts and instead follow exactly what God says in His word. Being lured by our own sinful desires into making absolutely devastating decisions is a constant danger that we need to be on guard against, but without the equally important obedience to what God says we will only continually fall prey to our own destructive lusts. Using the illustration of a mirror, James says that there are times that we are confronted in God’s word with errors in our own lives. Like the reflection in a mirror revealing a horribly inconvenient truth, the Word of God is powerful and exposes all areas of pride, evil motive, laziness, sinfulness and wrongdoing. Just as you would naturally fix your physical problem after noticing it in a mirror, you should be willing to address maladies in your spiritual life as well.
James speaks of two types who fail to fix the problems that are clearly revealed by the mirror of God’s word. First there are those who deceive themselves into thinking nothing is wrong. They use the opinion of equally as messed up people to vindicate their poor decisions and disobedience dismissively rejecting any reproof ever offered to them. They are deceived into thinking their way is better than God’s. Secondly, James tells of another group that strives to do right, but fails to control their own tongue. Their bodies become obedient but their hearts never do, and all the while, their tongues tattle-tale on their hearts revealing the sinfulness that lies beneath the surface. Outwardly they may seem obedient, but the problems revealed by God’s word go much deeper than the outside. Finally, James warns believers that they should always be ready to act out in obedience to the word of God as the Spirit helps them understand its truth. After seeing the problem in the mirror of God’s word, we should not rationalize it away or pretend it doesn’t exist, rather, there is nothing left to do but fix it.
Food For Thought: What areas have you seen in the mirror of God’s word that need fixing?