But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. – James 1:22
There was a man on a golf practice range who was, by any standards, an appalling player. When he occasionally connected with the ball, it was with wild slashing movements that sent it in every direction but seldom where he intended. His drives were ineffectual and weak, and he consistently dribbled the iron shots along the ground.
In the middle of this sorry display, he took a call on his cell phone that went something like this: “Yes, I’m on the driving range. Actually, very good. Driving it to the far end of the range. My irons? Oh, straight as arrows, and incredibly long.” Those observing wanted to exclaim to him, “Don’t kid yourself!”
James is warning us here not to kid ourselves when it comes to the issues of the Bible, faith, believing, and behaving. He has already warned against being deceived in general (James 1:16). Here, though, he makes it personal, identifying a crucial area of jeopardy: the danger of being self-deceived.
To illustrate his point, James uses an amusing analogy, imagining a person who looks into a mirror and then forgets what he looks like (James 1:23-24). This word picture helps us understand our peril. If we have just put on mismatching shoes or have smudges of dirt on our face, a mirror is useful not so that we can congratulate ourselves but in order that we can see our predicament and do what is necessary to fix it. Self-deception, in other words, can prevent us from seeing grave shortcomings that need to be addressed.
The Bible is our mirror. Its purpose is not to congratulate us but to challenge us. When we look into it, we find out things that we wouldn’t know had we not looked there. But if we discover them and then do nothing about them, we are self-deceived and remain in our predicament.
If the Bible is going to be effective in our lives, we must listen to it, receive it, and apply it. Treating God’s word properly does not mean merely reading it, understanding it, and agreeing with it. It means doing what it says.
As you look into the mirror of God’s word today, tomorrow, and every day, notice what is reflected back to you. Then be careful: do not walk away and kid yourself but act on what you have seen, allowing the Bible to be a transforming word in your life, as well as in all the lives that God calls you to touch. Be a doer, not a self-deceiver.