James 1:19-27. Listen, see, do

James is a letter of action but, before we act we need the wisdom to first listen and see carefully both the words of God and the circumstances in which we have to live our lives. What stands out is that our capacity to listen to God well is mirrored by our capacity to listen to our fellow human beings. [Audio | Notes]

Michael Flynn


James 1.19-27

For further thought

James 1:19-27 Listen, see, do

1:19-21 (Listen)

  • In verse 18 James writes of us being born through the word of truth and in verses 21 and 22 asks us to humbly receive the word and to do it. Verse 25 he asks us to persevere in looking into the perfect law, not forgetting but doing it. What is the word he writes about?
  • James asks us to listen deeply to God’s word (verse 19), to take it deeply into us and allow it to transform our actions. Why does listening mean we change what we do and not listening means we are left unchanged?
  • Why is listening to God’s word linked by James to listening to people (verses 19 & 20)?
  • How do anger and moral filth (lit. ‘ear wax’) filter what we hear when others are speaking?
  • What things do you struggle to listen to in your closest relationships? How could what James describes here contribute to on-line outrage culture or the echo chamber of social media?
  • How do most Australians filter God’s word through their own moral expectations?

1:22-25 (See)

  • James tells of a person examining themselves intently in a mirror who then goes away and forgets what they have seen as an illustration of the forgetfulness of hearing but not doing. Why is self-reflection, self-knowledge important in our listening?
  • James is a provocative speaker and writer – he coins the term: the law of freedom which, to many in Australia today, sounds like a contradiction. How does law define and preserve freedom? 
  • The perfect or complete law is the completion of the law in Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:17-20, Romans 10:4, 2 Corinthians 1:18-21) and makes possible our freedom (verse 25). In this letter of James, what does freedom mean?
  • How do we learn self-awareness or see ourselves (23,24) by doing what the perfect law (25), the word of truth (18), the word planted in you (21)says? How are we blessed in what we do? (25)

1:26-27 (Do)

  • By religion James means the outward display of our faith. According to James, empty or futile religion is full of words but lacks action (26). Religion that God accepts is full of action on behalf of the needy without being compromised by the world (27). James has just said that we need certain words but not others. What does wordy and inactive religion look like when it takes hold of a church?
  • Are our worship services acceptable worship on their own?
  • How are we helping the needy and working to keep ourselves unstained by the world?
  • Why has James linked social welfare with morality when our culture separates them?