Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21)
James advises us to get rid of all that is wrong in our lives and “humbly accept” the salvation message we have received (“the word planted in you”), because it alone can save us.
The word of God that has been implanted in the believer’s heart should be received with meekness—describing a teachable spirit—without resistance, disputing, or questioning. Receiving God’s Word in this way will save the believer’s soul, a word meaning “life.” Sin leads to death (James 1:15). Obedience prevents death; it protects a believer from sinful behavior that can lead directly or indirectly to physical death (James 1:15; 1 Cor. 11:30).
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 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; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25)
It is important to listen to what God’s Word says, but it is much more important to obey it, to do what it says. We can measure the effectiveness of our Bible study time by the effect it has on our behavior and attitudes. Do you put into action what you have studied? Be doers of the word, and not hearers only: Believers who hear the Word of God (James 1:19) must receive it with a teachable spirit (James 1:21), applying it to their daily lives. To hear and not obey is to be deceived.
It seems paradoxical that a law could give us freedom, but God’s law points out sin in us and gives us the opportunity to ask for God’s forgiveness (Romans 7:7, 8). As Christians, we are saved by God’s grace, and salvation frees us from sin’s control. As believers, we are free to live as God created us to live. Of course, this does not mean that we are free to do as we please (1 Peter 2:16). We are now free to obey God.
The perfect law of liberty is the law of love. Loving God and loving one’s neighbor sums up the Law (Matt. 22:34–39, Mark 12:28-31). But it is Christ’s love (Eph. 3:17–19) which frees us from our sins to truly love others (John 8:36–38; Gal. 5:13).
If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (James 1:26-27)
In the first century, orphans and widows had very little means of economic support. Unless a family member was willing to care for them, they were reduced to begging, selling themselves as slaves, or starving. By caring for these powerless people, the church put God’s Word into practice. Orphans and widows were among the most unprotected and needy classes in ancient societies (Ezek. 22:7). Pure religion does not merely give material goods for the relief of the distressed, it also oversees their care (Acts 6:1–7; 1 Tim. 5:3–16). When we give with no hope of receiving in return, we show what it means to serve others.
To keep ourselves from being polluted by the world, we need to commit ourselves to Christ’s ethical and moral system, not the worlds. We are not to adapt to the world’s value system, which is based on money, power, and pleasure. True faith means nothing if we are contaminated with such values.
References: NKJV Holy Bible, Life Application Bible (NIV), the Nelson Study Bible.