It is this tendency of lying to ourselves that James addresses in James 1:22-25. Read what the brother of Jesus had to say:
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (ESV)
Commenting on this passage David Nystrom in The NIV Application Commentary: James wrote; “But hearing alone is insufficient. To hear and not to take action is to lie to oneself” (p. 94). The three other commentaries that I read said similar things. We deceive ourselves when we hear God’s Word and do not live God’s Word.
Why does James say that we deceive ourselves when we are only listeners and not also doers? I think it comes down to the reality that God’s Word shows us what true humanity is to look like, and when we refuse to take action we are saying that we are already what God desires us to be. That is the point of the illustration that James uses. A man who looks in the mirror and does nothing is saying that he already looks good enough. His hair needs combed, his faced needs to be washed, and his beard needs trimmed, but he has convinced himself that he is presentable as is.
The person who is able to listen to God’s Word and doesn’t take action is saying that he/she is already measuring up to what God desires. They are deceiving themselves. To aid this deception they will point out other people who need to hear this “Word from God”, but in no way will they admit that it applies to them.
What do you do with God’s Word? Do you enjoy listening to it thinking of how it applies to others or critiquing it for correct doctrine? Do you listen to it and think how it applies to your life? Do you allow the truth be told or do you look for ways to lie to yourself?
One of the ways we experience God’s grace in our lives is through His Word. God wants to guide our lives and help us understand the best way to live. I hope that we can be humble enough to accept His Word, not only as truth to be learned, but also as instructions to live. Be truthful to yourself: listen and obey.