It was the perfect evening—warm and sunny, but not hot. Not a hint of an evening thunderstorm, only a faint breeze that whispered across the school’s lawn. The actors moved across the stage, their brightly colored costumes catching the evening sun. One of the actors cracked a joke and the audience laughed. The other responded and the audience laughed again. A few moments later, everyone was fighting tears and stifling giggles all at once. They were a superb group of actors.
I had never been to a play in the park before, and I found that I enjoyed it immensely. As a writer, it was inspiring to see another’s work come to life, to see the product of their labor continue to cheer others for years after they were gone. Night fell, and the performance was soon over. The final curtain came down, the cast took their bow, my friends, and I gathered our lawn chairs and went on our way, discussing our impressions, laughing over certain scenes, and even growing philosophical over the meaning of the play. We left feeling as though we’d been a part of something special.
There is something almost magical about theater. It takes you to places you have never been before, portrays things you may have never considered before or perhaps could never experience. An effective actor makes you laugh, cry, and even think about life in a new way. But the artist has something the audience will never have—they have lived the work while the audience has only observed it.
In James 1:22, a similar scenario is drawn out for us. It says, “But be ye doers of the word…” That word “doers” seems pretty basic, but the Greek word has the idea of performing something, of “poeting” something. You see the word is:
Ποιητησ (Poietes) – Which literally means: a maker, producer, author, doer, performer, poet. In fact, this is where we get our English word “poet.”
The verse goes on to say, “and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” Here the word for “hearer” is:
Ακροατης (Akroates) – Which means: a hearer (merely).
That’s right: merely a hearer.
So on the one hand, we have the performers, and, on the other hand, we have the audience. On the one hand, we have those who have picked up the Author’s work, ingested it, analyzed it, applied it, and brought it to life through their actions. On the other hand, we have those who have observed. They have heard the Author’s work, perhaps even been moved to tears or inspired by the performers of the work. Then they gather up their lawn chairs and go home. Perhaps they discuss it as they go. They talk about how beautiful the thoughts of the Work are, how brave and talented are the performers, how inspiring. They feel they have been a part of something special. But in reality, they have only observed it. They are deceiving themselves and don’t even realize it. Here the picture in the Greek just gets stronger.
Παραλογιζομαι (Paralogizomi) – Which means: To reckon wrong, miscount; to cheat by false reckoning; to deceive, delude, circumvent.
The audience has looked in the mirror (James 1:23,24), seen who they are, walked away, and have convinced themselves that they’re okay. They are cheating themselves. While they feel blessed to have observed something inspiring, they have missed the greater blessing of living it.
Of course, this passage isn’t talking about a play. It isn’t talking about an evening in the park, watching actors perform a masterpiece. It’s talking about life and the living out of God’s Word.
Up to this point, this blog has been fairly easy to write, but this is where it gets difficult because this is where we have to ask the hard questions:
• Am I a performer, living out the work of the Author and Creator of my faith, or am I merely a hearer?
• Do I watch as others do the work, or do I ingest God’s Word, apply it, and live it out?
• Do I allow myself to be inspired by others and their walk of faith, to be entertained, and then pick up my lawn chair and walk away, carrying my impressions, inspiration, and false sense of camaraderie and participation with me?
• Have I cheated myself, reckoning that I am blessed for having heard, missing the fact that the blessing is in the doing?
We know and understand that our salvation is not by works, but that does not mean that our doing does not affect our blessing. The New Testament addresses this over and over, both before Christ’s death and resurrection and afterward. We were created in Christ Jesus unto good works, and God has ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10) So the question is: Do we?
You may be wondering what this has to do with the fatherless. It has everything to do with the fatherless, as we will see later this week in another blog. But for now, take a look around you, look at your responses to other Christians and their ministries, look at your involvement at church, in missions, and in your own neighborhood. Look at the Word:
Are you a performer, an actor, a doer—or merely part of the audience?