James 1:17–27 (NIV) 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. 19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. 26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
My dear friends in Christ,
Every family has a set of values. Some families value time together. Others value experiences like camping or vacations. Many families value sports and other active programming for their children. Today we begin our series entitled Family Values. For the next 8 weeks we will work through God’s Word, especially in the gospel of Mark, to see what Jesus values. Are our family values in line with Jesus’ values? Are our church’s values consistent with what Jesus cares about?
Do we value what others tell us? Are we “hearers” or are we “doers”? Wives, are your husbands “hearers” or “doers”? You’re having a discussion about something important for the day, or for the house, and all through the conversation he dutifully nods his head and you hear, “Mmm hmm. Yup. Uh huh.” The message is clear. He heard every word. But, did was he a “doer”? Did he do what he said he’d do? Or is the grass still tall, the garage a disaster, and that really important paperwork past its deadline?
Parents, are your children “hearers” or “doers”? “Is your room clean?” They barely look up from whatever they’re doing—reading a book, looking at their phone, watching TV—and say, “Mmm hmm.” “Look at me please. Is your room clean?” They look up, and with a wide-eyed look of complete innocence say, “Yes mom.” They heard, but unless you personally supervised the cleaning, chances are good that they were just “hearers” and not “doers.”
Teachers, are your students “hearers” or “doers”? The instructions are printed on the homework. The homework is listed on the board, sent out in an email, posted on the Google calendar. “Please hand in your homework.” The hand goes up: “I forgot to do it.” They heard it. They they knew it was assigned. They forgot it. “Hearers” or “doers”?
What about at work? Are your co-workers “hearers” or “doers”? They heard the boss’s presentation. They noted the deadline. They put in some time, but not enough. As team leader you ask, “Where’s your section? Is it complete?” “Uh, not quite yet. I had another major call come in while I was trying to finish it and it’s not done.”
We have a problem. We hear an awful lot going on in our relationships, but our lack of action is evidence that our hearts are not in the right place. When we say that we listen but don’t follow through, what are we telling the people we are “listening” to? We really don’t respect or love them enough to follow through.
If that’s how we act toward each other, what does our relationship with our heavenly Father look like? He talks to us on Sunday mornings. “Remember all those things you did wrong this week?” “Mmm hmm.” “Go in peace, your sins are forgiven.” “Yup. Uh huh.” “I will bless and keep you. I will make my face shine on you and be gracious to you. I will look on you with favor, and I’ll give you peace.” “Yeah. Thanks.”
James said, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22 CSB). We hear it all, but we don’t do it very well. Did we catch James’ advice? “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19–20 NIV). We already admitted that we don’t do the listening thing very well. When we’re caught not doing what we’ve been asked to do, we are quick to speak— “it wasn’t my fault...” All too quickly anger blooms. “Why are they always after me? Why is it always my fault?” We are really good “doers” when it comes to the things we shouldn’t do. Then James warns us, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like” (James 1:23–24 NIV). It sounds silly, but isn’t that exactly what we end up doing? We hear what God says, but as soon as we walk out the door, we immediately forget everything he said and go back to being “doers” of all that is filthy and evil in God’s sight. That doesn’t leave us with much of a foundation for family values. We fail as “doers” and our lack of love for God and for each other is obvious.
That’s where our family values become so important. As part of the family of Christ, we value the gift of Christian Education. We treasure it in all its forms—whether it’s here at church, in our school and preschool, in our homes, at work, wherever we use God’s Word. We treasure it because that’s where we learn to be “hearers” of the Word and “doers.” In order to be “doers” we do need to listen first. James said, “But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1:25 NIV). There’s no mistake about it—we need to listen to God’s Word. The Word tells us everything we need to know about God—who he is and what he has done for us. That’s what happens here on Sunday mornings. We hear God speak to us in his Word through all the readings and responses, the sermon, and the hymns. It happens when we go home on Sundays and families reinforce what God said throughout the week. That’s the privilege our school staff has during the week here at Salem. Each of our teachers focuses on our mission: Equipping the soul, mind, and body for a lifetime and beyond in Christ. No matter what the class, no matter where we see our students, that’s our number one goal. We want to them to listen to the Word and learn it. The “lifetime” in our mission statement addresses being “doers” of the Word. We want everyone here at Salem to be equipped to do everything our God has called us to do. Listen...learn...do. That’s what we value about Christian education.
We can learn a lot at church, at home, and at school. Just learning a bunch of facts and figures isn’t enough. That’s what makes a Christian education so valuable. It directs us to Jesus, and Jesus gives us the motivation and strength to be “doers.” He said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34–35 NIV). Jesus valued Christian education. Jesus was the perfect “hearer.” He listened to everything his Father said and learned it perfectly. Jesus also took it to the next step. He was a “doer.” He carried out God’s commands perfectly, including the one to love one another. He said, “I have loved you.” Really? How can we be so sure? Look back at the gospel for today. Jesus cared about the disabled, the weak, and the downtrodden. He cared so much that he did a miracle—a miracle driven by compassion for a man who couldn’t hear and could barely talk. “[Jesus] looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly” (Mark 7:34–35 NIV). Can you hear Jesus’ deep sigh? Can you hear his love for that man’s ears, his heart, his whole life? If that sigh isn’t enough, listen to him sigh as he finishes his work on the cross, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” He sighs, he dies for us. Jesus stooped to look in the perfect law. He saw his love in action for a deaf man; love in action for you, for me.
That’s why our family here at Salem values Christian Education. We listen to what God says. We learn it, sometimes even memorize it. Then, with Jesus’ love to motivate us, we become “doers” of everything the Word says. Jill, today we’re celebrating 25 years of service in the teaching ministry. Years ago your parents and your church family valued Christian education. You listened to God’s Word and learned to love Jesus and all that he has done for us. You also became a “doer” of the Word. When Jesus commanded, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19–20 NIV), you followed that command and did it. You became a teacher. For 25 years you have stood before Jesus’ little lambs and helped them listen to the Word. They learned about Jesus’ love from you, not only when you taught their Bible stories, but also as they watched you live. They have seen the example of a Christian teacher, a Christian wife, a Christian mom, and after 25 years, some of your former students call you their Christian friend. You have served in different places—Illinois, Utah, Arizona, and now here at Salem. Wherever you have served, you have been a “doer” of the Word. Thank you! Thank you to all who have taught us to listen, to learn, and to do God’s Word.
James points us to the beautiful promise God makes and keeps when our family values embrace listening, learning, and doing God’s Word. “But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1:25 NIV). God blesses us as we hear his Word and then do it--put it into action. Sometimes we get to see it in action when a husband listens and does what he needs to do. God blesses the work of his hands, and husband and wife can enjoy down time together. Children listen and maybe even clean up their room without mom saying a word. God blesses them with a clean room, a happy mom, and every once in a while maybe a yummy treat. Students all hand in an assignment, on time, and all well done. The teacher’s excitement is obvious as she praises the class up and down for their faithful work. God blesses what they’ve done with a good grade. God may bless a job well done at work with a raise or a bonus.
It doesn’t take much to be a “doer” of the Word. Jesus’ love gives us all the strength and motivation we need. Husbands, love your wives enough to listen to them, acknowledge them, and do what needs to be done. Children, love your parents enough to listen to them, learn from what they say, and follow through. The same is true for us in the classroom, on the job, in the backyard, wherever we are. Listen...learn...and do. Don’t just be “hearers.” Be “doers” and praise the Lord with everything that you do! Amen!