This Sunday the Revised Common Lectionary offers a passage from near the beginning of the letter of James. So many questions about James: was it really, for example, written by Jesus' brother? THAT James? (Scholarly consensus, probably no.) And don't you just love a piece of the bible that so pissed off Martin Luther that he called it "an epistle of straw"? He hated, loathed, despised and abominated this little gem because it seemed to veer wildly away from what he thought was the Main Thesis of the New Testament, i.e. Justification by Grace and Not Works. And then we have old James, maybe a guy with some sibling rivalry issues none of us can even begin to appreciate, saying, Ahem, "Be doers of the word and not merely hearers who deceive themselves."
Speaking of which: I opened to this passage today, hoping to be able to apply it self-righteously to an email I got yesterday that scared the crap out of me, and then made me mad, and then made me want to exact vengeance. James would not cooperate. "You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God's righteousness." Aw, man. James is like a good pre-school teacher, saying, Lovey, you have two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you talk, ok? (I wanted to pin the quick to speak anger stuff on the emailer. Ooops.) James says, if we are hearers but not doers of the word, we are like folks who look at ourselves in a mirror and then walk away, quickly forgetting what we look like. (Hey! Sounds like a shout out to PeaceBang!) So by extrapolation... being doers of the word is like keeping a mirror before ourselves at all times, not so that we can say, "Why, how righteously pretty you are my sweet!," but so that we can know the truth, and know the truth, and know the truth some more.