What does James 1:23 mean?
ESV: 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.
NIV: Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror
NASB: For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror;
CSB: Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like someone looking at his own face in a mirror.
NLT: For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror.
KJV: For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
NKJV: For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;
Verse Commentary:
This verse introduces a useful analogy, but it needs to be read in context with the prior two verses in order to have maximum impact. James compares looking into a mirror with looking into the law of God. The big idea will be that, in both cases, merely "looking" is not enough. We must retain what we see. We must act on what we see.

James begins the comparison in this verse by saying that someone who listens to the Word—the message of Jesus—but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his own face in a mirror and, per the next verse, immediately forgets what he looks like.

It's important to be careful about what James is not saying here. We have to be careful not to read so much into the details of an analogy that we miss the actual point. James isn't saying that looking at the Word is exactly like looking at ourselves. He's bringing out an absurd example to make his point: To forget what God Himself has revealed to us through His Word, when we go out into the world to live, is as absurd as forgetting what we look like as soon as we walk away from a mirror.
Verse Context:
James 1:19–27 emphasizes that those who truly trust God don't settle for merely appearing religious. They give up trying to control the world with their words and their anger. They humbly receive the Word God has planted in them, listen to it, and proceed to do what it says. Part of what the Word says to us is that we should keep control over our words, to care for those who are weak and suffering, and to keep ourselves from being polluted by the world around us.
Chapter Summary:
How important is it for Christians to trust God? It's so important, James writes, that we should call our worst moments joyful things, because trials help us trust God more. People who trust God ask Him for wisdom—and then take what He gives. People who trust God make a bigger deal about their rewards in the next life than their wealth in this one. People who trust God don't blame Him for their desire to sin; they give Him credit for all that is good in their lives. They look into His Word, and they act on what they see there.
Chapter Context:
This first chapter in the book of James sets the course for the rest of his letter to Christians worldwide. God wants us to trust Him more, and more deeply, as we learn more of Him. This is so important to God that He calls on us to find joy, even in hard times, because hardship helps us trust God more. Those who really trust God will ask Him for wisdom, will be excited about their status in eternity, will recognize Him as the source of all good in their lives, and will work to act on what they find in His Word.
Book Summary:
The book of James is about specifically understanding what saving faith looks like. How does faith in Christ reveal itself in a believer's life? What choices does real trust in God lead us to make? Those are the questions James answers. Most scholars believe the writer was Jesus' half-brother, a son born to Joseph and Mary after Jesus' birth. James may not have come to believe Jesus was the Messiah until after the resurrection. Eventually, though, he became one of the leaders of the Christian church in Jerusalem. This is possibly the earliest-written of all the New Testament books, around AD 40–50. James addresses his letter to Jewish Christians scattered around the known world.
Accessed 7/17/2024 12:35:41 PM
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