22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
There are two sorts of hearers in the church, according to James. Though all the worshippers appear to be listening to a sermon, only some of them truly receive and apply it to their lives. The rest, though they appear to have paid attention to what is being preached, do not seem to bring their lives into subjection to the Word preached faithfully.
The first group of hearers, referred to as “doers of the word”, is what James desires every churchgoer to be. So he instructs us, “be ye doers of the word”. But, what is it to be a doer of the Word? A doer of the Word is one who applies his mind to understand what is being preached, and then makes every effort to meticulously practise what he has heard. Such a man takes God’s Word seriously, and yields to its authority and wisdom in humble obedience. Such a man is reverential in his hearing of the Word. He believes that the Word of God is good and most beneficial to him. He receives it with meekness (cf. James 1:21), whether it be a rebuke, or correction, or instruction, or promise.
The second group of hearers are the indifferent hearers. This sort of hearers may listen to what is being expounded from the Scriptures with apparent joy. Nonetheless, soon their joy in the preached Word vanishes, as they give heed to other voices brought to them by temptations and trials of the world. Eventually, it becomes their habit to live in total disregard of what they have heard from the Word. If they hear a sermon on repentance, they would not repent. When they hear the call to separate from unbelievers and wicked men, they scoff at it and continue to foster their close interaction with the ungodly.
The “hearers only” group is also warned that they are deceiving themselves. Surely they would not pay attention to that warning. Instead, they might speak ill of those who warn them. They make themselves appear as eager hearers, but they are superficial hearers. When the hearers refuse to take hold of the truth of God’s Word, they live without its wisdom. Knowledge without obedience is futile.
It is a terrible folly not to take hold of divine truth. It would inflict severe damage on one’s spiritual integrity and effectiveness. It is a dreadful mistake to neglect the truth that has been brought to one’s attention.